Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Bliss of a Breakthrough! with Roxanne St. Claire

Please join me in welcoming bestselling author, Roxanne St. Claire! Not only is she a bestselling, incredibly prolific, RITA winning author of dozens of hot books, she’s also a super nice. (Which is a good thing ‘cause otherwise I’d have to hate her a little. She’s that good.) Her Bullet Catcher series is Romantic Suspense at it’s best – great plots, great suspense, HAWT heroes. (Swoon!) So, take it away Roxanne…

What an honor and pleasure to be at one of my very favorite blogs. Thank you, Gemma, for the invitation to stop by – especially during this special week. It’s “Release Week” for me – NOW YOU DIE, the latest in my Bullet Catcher series, hit stores on Tuesday and that means I wallow in a sea of emotions. Anticipation, excitement, worry, terror, angst (sooooo much), pride (even more), and whatever the emotion is that drives us to check amazon numbers on an hourly (okay, minutely) basis.

The best distractions during this mood maelstrom are blogging, vacationing, or writing. Being an overachiever, I am happily doing all three! I’m at the beach for a few days, hard at work on my next book, and popping around the blogosphere to chat about writing. The beach is gorgeous (but I live in Florida, so there’s a hurricane in the distance that scares me). Guest blogging and commenting is one of my favorite pastimes, so expect me to pop in often today. But the activity that takes me away like a Calgon bath is writing. Best of all, writing after a “breakthrough.” These are the happiest writing days, and I’m thrilled to tell you, I’ve recently had one. All the writers out there know the joy of that instant when some knotted up plot twist or unclear character trait or sticky story element is suddenly, inexplicably, perfectly resolved. Even the tiniest breakthrough can be a source of major joy but when we have one that solves the supersized story problems, it’s just a bunch of bliss.

It’s fun to watch a writer the moment she has the breakthrough. She brightens, blinks, looks around at no one (or perhaps her husband who is earnestly discussing how the Yankees suck this year) and she will say, “Oh! That’s it! If the cell phone is programmed with a certain song in the opening scene, then when she hears it playing she’ll know that he’s the villain! Thank you, honey, for helping me figure that out.” And he just looks at her, and smiles, long resigned to the fact that to be a sounding board of great value, all you have to do is be in the same room with a writer, or talk about the Yankees.

I had a breakthrough this week. Oddly enough, it came from a source designed to provide that very service, but often offers more information than inspiration – the RWR, the magazine published by the Romance Writers of America. I admit, with some embarrassment and guilt, that I haven’t been reading the RWR regularly of late. A shortage of time, a lack of interest, a sense that I’ve “read all that.” But shame on me because there it was, in the glossy pages of our corporate mag – the answer to my manuscript’s problems.

I had taken the RWR to bed because, well, I wanted something to put me to sleep. (Sorry RWR editor. My bad! Read on.) I enjoyed the first article on writer’s depression because it provided a different spin on the subject, and one that made sense. More awake than asleep (defeating the very purpose of my reading material), I started an article on theme. Theme? This will be a yawner, right? Apparently not because this well written essay by Liz Lounsbury, titled “Utilizing Your Theme to Add Depth to Your Stories,” was not the Ambien on the Page I’d hoped to take. One sentence in particular made me think, and think hard. Ms. Lounsbury suggests that the best way to show a book’s theme is to tie it to the character’s arc. Do I do that in every book? I considered the last few. Yes, I do. I really do. Am I doing that in the current book?

A few pangs of gut-level discomfort jabbed at me, the same ones that had been making unwanted appearances for the last month or so. The article forced me to think through some character issues, keeping me awake late into the night until finally, after much soul-searching and idea-generating, the answer came to me. And, Lordy, it was a Capital B Breakthrough. I actually threw off the covers, tiptoed back into my office, and wrote notes for half an hour, fueled by that lovely urgency of finally knowing exactly what I wanted to do with the book. And since that night, the book’s been flying.

My blog point, and I do have one, is not about my particular lightbulb moment, but how critical they are to the process of writing. If we listen to the inner voice, the muse, the gut – who or whatever gives a writer the sense that all is right (or not) with the book – the breakthrough will happen. And it may come from an obvious source (a well written article on craft) or a surprise (an unsuspecting Yankee fan).

So tell me about your breakthroughs! Even if you’re not a writer – you have that moment of “clarity” when the solution to a problem presents itself. How did they happen – by chance or by force? Here’s a new twist on an age-old question: where do you get your breakthroughs?

One commenter will win a copy of FIRST YOU RUN, the opening book in this year’s Bullet Catcher trilogy. And I’ll pop in to answer any questions or talk about my new release, NOW YOU DIE – a hot romantic suspense featuring a smart-ass bodyguard by the name of Jack Culver and Bullet Catcher boss, Lucy Sharpe. There were multiple breakthroughs involved in that one, I promise!


Friday, August 29, 2008

Lights and Sounds and Safety – Oh My!

So, this week I had a totally interesting, intelligent, personal blog post written… and then someone emailed me a link to this site. And I laughed so hard I deiced there was no way I could NOT blog about it this week. The site is called Wacky Rubbers and they sell… well, wacky rubbers. And I’m not talking galoshes. Now, I’ve heard of specialty love-gloves before. Neon colored, glow-in-the-dark, even flavored. But these… well, you just have to see for yourself.

An elephant. Complete with tusks. (Um, ouch. Just ouch.)

A beer stein. (Now you can combine the two favorite male pastimes – beer and sex!)

Jana – this one’s for you… an alligator! (Yeah, if there’s one place I don’t want an alligator…)

The Statue of Liberty. (Patriotic... or just wrong.)

Oh, but it gets better…

Press the tip and this little devil has a flashing light. It actually lights up. I cannot even imagine the practical applications. For sex in a blackout? Finding your way in the dark?

But my absolute favorite…

A birthday cake that plays the song Happy Birthday when you press the tip. Seriously. It’s musical. (I know, I just peed my pants laughing a little, too.)

For the very curious among you, you can check out this page where they have demonstration videos of how the flashing and musical buddies work. I swear I got a side cramp laughing at it.

These must, must, must end up in someone’s book soon.

~Trigger Happy Halliday

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Attack of Bullet Hole's Decluttering Brigade!

It's hit. The decluttering bug. It hits me annually this time of year. But this year it's worse.

It might have something to do with the squirrels storing up for the winter tradition that compels me to dig into my closets and start tossing and grab the cleaning implements and gloves and take no prisoners. This year, however, it's really gotten out of hand. I'm not satisfied with mere organizing and cleaning. I've taken the Annual Autumnal Cleaning Campaign to a whole new level.

And it's wreaking havoc with my writing regime.

I blogged last week about sending my students off to college and the painting projects I undertook. (My son's room had been a deep, dark red. Do you have any idea how many coats of 'Popcorn' colored primer and paint it took to cover those walls?) We managed to finish those projects. Then, my son decided it was time to buy the drafting table he had wanted for some time. It was on sale. The time was right.

So we spent much of last Sunday assembling that item. I finally had to call my brother for help lest I say some naughty words that should never be uttered, let alone on the Sabbath. Three hours and a Supreme Pizza later it was together--and a thing of beauty! It even folded up like it was supposed to!

With the addition of the new drafting table, the existing computer table had to be removed to make room. My daughter promptly decided she wanted it. That meant finding a new place for her computer table. Since I inherited the table, I decided my office needed a facelift. So I practically gutted it and started over with a new furniture arrangement. I worked until late last night on my office but I am pleased with the result.

Then I visited my sister-in-law and greatly admired her kitchen and dining room updating project and promptly decided I needed to update my dining room and television room with chair rail and new paint. That means taking down an existing border, buying and staining the rail boards, and, yes--more painting. And, of course this also means new flooring.

Which begs the question: Just when do you plan to write, Bullet Hole? And do class work for three classes? And, uh, sleep?

I admit it. I'm having a bit of difficulty getting back into the swing of a disciplined writing schedule now that I'm working ten hour shifts, fall classes have started, and I've come down with a serious case of ultimate home makeover sydrome.

Last night I decided I needed to come up with a disciplined schedule I could--and would--adhere to that would provide time for writing, coursework, family--and would also allow me time to pursue my home decorating whims.

Today was supposed to be a writing day. Let's see. I've reconciled my bank statements. Made a trip to the Post Office, Walmart, and the convenience store for gas & I'm blogging.

Not a stellar start.

And I hear there's a heck of a sale on laminate flooring...

Dang. I'm doomed!

Anybody else out there similarly afflicted with the decluttering and home improvement bug? How is it manifesting itself? Oh--and if anybody has any foolproof tips on removing wallpaper borders--pass 'em along!

~Bullet Hole Bacus~

P.S. Congrats to Leslie 'The Assassin' Langtry on the release of HITMAN! Whoo hoo! Can't wait to read it!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The New Bombay Book Is Here! I'm Somebody Now!

Woo Hoo! It's STAND BY YOUR HITMAN launch week! And I'm coming from you live, from my daughter's laptop because mine has some serious mental issues. Of course, I can't talk, since I'm basically mainlining Midol right now. So, no fun photos, etc. I'll just have to discuss the impending death of Al - the space plant - which has gone all brown and dried out but is still standing - next week. My eulogy will make you weep.

HITMAN came out on Tuesday at most bookstores and I have a signing locally at 2pm CT at the Borders in Davenport, Iowa on Sept. 6. I've also been guest blogging this week, yesterday at Romance Writers Revenge and tomorrow on Romance Vagabonds. It's been a lot of fun and yesterday the rum flowed freely on the pirate ship. A little too freely in fact. I can't for the life of me decipher the chapter I wrote last night. Something to do with Coney, a fairy godmother wearing chartreuse, and a giant lobster.

For those of you who live vicariously and sado-masochistically through me, I'm also preparing for this weekend's Fifth Annual Labor Day Girl Scout Camping trip! That's right - three wonderful days with 24 fifth grade girl scouts! Let the good times (and absorbine jr.) roll!

So, you could see I'm a little distracted this week. But that's okay. I'd be worried if book launch week was normal. Actually, I'm pretty sure that would be impossible. But I'm excited! It's so cool to see the book in stores and my friends have been dropping by (which is great as soon as I throw some clothes on and close the kitchen door so they can't see the dirty dishes) to have me sign their books.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to help me come up with a suitable phrase with which to sign my books. For one year, I've been writing all kinds of crap (and my uncles have all asked me to stop writing "to my favorite uncle" because I write that in all their books and they checked. Who knew they would do that?) from long, personal paragraphs to the ever-popular "Enjoy," which seems a bit arrogant to me.

And for my fellow divas - how about telling me the strangest thing a fan has ever asked you to write in your book? I don't have one of those yet, although I did have a (drop-dead gorgeous, I might add) fan (who will be unnamed, but you KNOW who you are) who gave me her phone number, put her phone in her cleavage and asked me to call often so her breasts would vibrate. She even wrote on her nametag, "Leslie Langtry Makes My Boobs Vibrate." Mr. Assassin thought that was pretty cool.

And for my friends - give me a fitting phrase with which I can sign my books (knowing full well that I will always personalize YOUR books).

The Assassin

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

That Kind of Friend

“Can’t you two be together for more than an hour without getting in trouble?”

It was my distant cousin’s mother who asked that question. I think it had something to do with the roast she’d asked us to cook and together Jenny and I had decided to get creative, and not follow her mom’s recipe. In our young minds, probably around twelve, it made sense that if her mom didn’t like the seasonings, she wouldn’t have kept them in her pantry. How did we know that cinnamon and oregano and hot chili pepper, didn’t go well together? Hey, we were young and in the mood to experiment, live a little.

Yup, there was just something about my cousin Jenny and I. We brought out the adventuresome spirit in each other. Things that neither of us would have done alone, we somehow managed to do together.

I specifically remember that same summer when we took off walking, looking for an adventure. We walked until well, we came upon a pasture and a horse. I swear this was Jenny’s idea, but she didn’t have to twist my arm too hard. She looked at that horse in the big pasture and decided right then and there that we were going to ride that animal like cowgirls.

Now, neither of us had any prior horse-riding experience, no saddles, no bridles, and we soon learned that the horse, or rather we later learned that mule, didn’t have any giving-rides experience. We went home that day bruised, scratched, mule-kicked, smelling like the backside of an animal, and what the mule didn’t cause when it threw us, the barded wire fence did when we climbed it to get away from a fed-up mule wanting to teach two girls a lesson.

Oh yes, Jenny and I sparked something in each other and those sparks generally generated trouble. Growing up, I’ve found that type of relationship with several of my adult girlfriends—actually with most of girlfriends of late. Now, I don’t ruin a good piece of meat by going bonkers with seasonings, and I’m smart enough to know a horse from a mule and you couldn’t pay me to climb on the backside of one again. But there are other adventures that still call my name and sometimes get me and my friends into a little bit of trouble.

I think I may have shared the video teaser we did for The Great Agent Hunt workshop. Well, now that the full video is done, it hit me how this little film production is a fine example of how all my friends are “adventure” sparkers. You can see the video below and as you watch it, imagine us photographing this in middle of a hotel during a huge writing conference. Oh, the looks we got when we had my agent tied, blindfolded, and pulling her down the hotel hall was priceless.

Okay, back to my friends, the co-conspirators of this crazy idea. First there’s Faye and I, who together start thinking . . . wouldn’t it be funny if we had pictures of agents with writers stalking them. And then bam! what seemed like a farfetched idea suddenly became a plan—sort of like seeing a lone mule in the middle of someone’s pasture and deciding to try to ride it. But it took more than just Faye and I to pull this off.

There’s Ruth, who when asked to go to the store and by a gun and rope, never stops to question why—or when asked to smile and show off her green seaweed mask for the camera, does so willingly. (Gotta love her.) Teri, who when asked to stalk an agent in the elevator does so with the most innocent of faces. (Though, she’s not near as innocent as she looks.) Jody, who when asked to tie my agent to the chair, smiles and does it with the most evil of faces. (Jody, by the way, missed her calling as an actress!) Alison, who when asked if she will hide in an agent’s closet, smiles and poses for her moment in the limelight. (There’s a sneaky side to Alison, hiding behind that smile.)

Oh, I can’t forget to mention the agents. The look on Kim Lionetti’s face—Kim is my agent—, when I asked her to get in the shower was priceless. Ahh, but she did it. I love that shot of her by the way! (I think she was genuinely scared of Jody.) Now Jessica Faust, was sort of like Jody, I think she should have gone into theater because she even brought some props with her—handcuffs, among other things. (Who but Jessica would keep handcuffs handy?) Caren Johnson, while posed on the john, had some expressions that had me laughing so hard I almost couldn’t hold the camera still.

I can tell you that this video was as much fun to photograph as it is to watch. And a lot more fun than getting bucked off the back of a mule. While this video is about agents, the story behind the video is about friends—friends having fun, joining each other in a crazy adventure. So do tell me, do you and your friends have adventures? What crazy things have you and your girlfriends done that makes you smile when you think about them? Come on share.

Crime Scene Christie
P.S. For any writers who enjoy on-line classes. Check this out:

The Great Agent Hunt:

Sunday, August 24, 2008

A Miracle in Medical Land

Mia Rose - You won on anniversary week and I have not heard from you. Please contact me at jana (at) janadeleon (dot) com. If I have not heard from you by this Sunday, I will pick a new winner.

The last couple of weeks, I've been suffering with enormous back/neck pain. The root of the problem is apparently a pinched nerve that runs down my neck and to the center of my back, just to the left of my spinal cord. And you'll never, ever guess what activity hurts it the most - yep, typing. What are the friggin' odds, right? I could probably go dig a ditch and be fine, but NOOOOOO, my problem has to be typing. How lame is that?

And of course, there's the whole other issue...typing is sorta, well, necessary to both my jobs. I mean, you all know I write novels, but the job that pays the bills and provides the insurance is the day job and at that job, I'm a technical writers.

So this problem is not new and has repeated itself several times in the last five years or so, so this time instead of just loading up on pain killers and muscle relaxers, I decided I was going to try something different and see a chiropractor. After all, it was no coindence that the same problem kept recurring in the exactly same place. Well, an x-ray told the whole story - my spine from the base of my neck to the center of my back is curving to the right, which is pulling everything on my left side. So when experiencing extreme overuse, the muscles knot and pinch the nerve and it take simply FOREVER for it to work itself out. The doc is trying to fix the problem, but fixing the problem involves loosening the muscles surrounding my spine enough for him to force the vertebrae back in line. And it will probably take months of visiting twice a week to get anything somewhat permenant accomplished. Of course the alternative is to walk like the hunchback when I'm 60 and need some maryjane for the pain the arthritis would bring, so vertebrae popping seems like a better choice.

So I asked how this could have happened, and my doc (who also did sports medicine for the NY Jets) says it's a impact injury. Put simply he said "you've played hard. This is the kind of injury I used to see in football players. Did you play sports?" So I said "Yes, motocross." So then he says "Well, that would explain this injury and the dislocated shoulder and the fractured collar bone." And I stare and say "I've never dislocated my shoulder or fractured my collar bone." So he stares and says "Yes, you have, and I promise I won't ever ask you about your tolerance for pain again."

But you see, my curved spine and unknown fractured parts aside, that's not even the miraculous part. The miraculous part is (drumroll please) He didn't even once suggest that if I lost weight, the problem would go away!

You see, my regular GP, whom I love but is sometimes a little silly has suggested that everything I have wrong with me could be cured if I'd just lose weight. And I mean everything. His latest was how I could cure my allergies by losing weight. According to my GP, if I lost weight, I'd be thinner, younger, more beautiful, smarter and posses talents I never knew about if I could fit in a single digit size. The hole in the ozone layer would close, world hunger would be solved and I'm fairly certain Michael Phelps would have won NINE gold medals (even though he only competed in eight events) if I'd just dropped five pounds or so before the Olympics started.

So, you know me, a glutton for punishment. I can't let it lie, so I had to ask. "I suppose if I lost weight, it would make it better." And get this, the doc actually says, "well if you were in here for knees or lower back I would agree, but not where this is located." Unbelievable, a golden opportunity for a doctor to tell me I needed to lose weight and he didn't even take it....a miracle in medical land.

Deadly (Gimpy) DeLeon

YouTube Sunday!

Since it’s been a few weeks since I’ve had a chance to post YouTube videos, I’m going all out this week with three awesome ones that I’ve been waiting to share. All three winners will receive High Heels cell phone charms. So, send me your snail mail addresses and I’ll pop them in the mail to you. Congrats!

This first one is from Faye and it took me a minute to realize what I was looking at. But, way cool!

This one came to me from Sharon. Cutest gopher!

And last but not least, Surferchick sent in this one of the best wedding dance ever. I can only hope to wed a guy this fun someday.

Thanks again ladies for all the great videos!

Unfortunately, I’m going to be ducking into the deadline cave for a (hopefully) short stint, so YouTube Sundays is going on hiatus. But check back for new contests being posted soon and fab guests popping up on weekends in the near future!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Wilde Brunch

Hi Guys,

I want to introduce you guys to another writing buddy of mine. Kimberly Frost is one amazing lady. Her first book isn't out until February, but I'd bet my best hairbrush that her work is as witty and interesting as she is. Thanks for joining us, Kimberly. Here's Kimberly...

I am not a professional drinker. I could not even claim amateur status in the Olympics since that implies training and a certain advanced knowledge of the sport.

I met my friend S for brunch at B’s in the village. I had once tried their peach mimosas with no ill effects and looked forward to one as I skimmed the menu and decided upon an Asian chicken salad. Then the word Bellini caught my eye. Don’t you find oranges to be bright and sunny? Like summertime in a glass?

About ten years ago I’d tried a frozen Bellini in a chain restaurant, and it had tasted like a melted Creamsicle, taking me back to my childhood days of buying ice creams from the truck that rolled through our neighborhood playing really loud and somewhat obnoxious music that set us to salivating like one of Pavlov’s dogs.

So while S ordered a mimosa, I ordered a Bellini.

“The Bellini martini?” the waiter asked.

“Sure,” I said with a smile, in a hurry to move on from ordering so I could visit with my friend.

As we chatted about life, plans, families, and work, I drank the cocktail. Deep in conversation, I was only vaguely aware of the fact that it bore no resemblance whatsoever to a milkshake. No, I thought with a slight cough, the rather vigorous concoction was stout enough to be used to cleanse wounds and clean countertops.

When S signaled the waiter to bring us another round, I began to shake my head, but got distracted when she launched into a description of her misadventures on an Alaskan cruise.

The meal ended too quickly, and S dashed off to pick up her kids while I meandered through the parking lot. Feeling flushed and a bit smothered by the hundred-degree heat, I realized, quite startled, that my lips were numb. Also, somewhere during the second Bellini martini, my head had turned into a beehive.

Clearly, driving was not an option.

The sun beat down on my head, scorching my highlights to brass. I had to seek shelter and fast.
After an interminable hike in shoes not really meant for walking or standing, I found a haven.

The jewelry store was sixty-nine perfect degrees with soothing classical music and a saleswoman in a pale linen suit who smelled like lavender. She offered me water, which I graciously accepted.

I perused the glass cases full of sparkling accoutrements. The gemstones twinkled like stardust and the gold shone like molten sunshine. It occurred to me that Christmas was a mere seven months away. The bees buzzed pleasantly in my head, and I began pointing.

I will not tell you what I bought or what I spent. That is between me, the saleswoman who asked me to call her Dina, and my wonderful friends at MasterCard.

I will leave you with a parting thought. Oscar Wilde said, “Anyone who lives within their means suffers from lack of imagination.” Never wanting imagination to be in short supply, I am therefore forced to recommend brunch with a Bellini martini—or two.

Best wishes,

Kimberly Frost
Would-be Witch, February 2009

Friday, August 22, 2008

Blondes Have More... Booty Calls?

I am blonde. Yes, Clairol helps with the highlights a little (Feria 100, baby!), but, I promise you, underneath it all, I am a natural blonde. Always have been, always will be. I tried, just once, to go darker. I thought it would be fun to play at being an exotic brunette for awhile. But I couldn’t pull it off. It was a hair coloring disaster of epic proportions. (Green frizz. So not a good look on me.) Nope, no denying it, I am blonde.

Which isn’t always a good thing.

You see, being blonde has come to be associated with an entire personality type. Blondes are bubbly, not-too-bright, fun, flirty, generally have bigger boobs, and always own at least two string bikinis. We’re cheerleaders, hot nurses, and lifeguards who run up and down the beach all day in slow motion. We wear bright red lipstick, super high heels (okay, guilty as charged on that one), and giggle like middle-schoolers anytime a guy says anything slightly amusing. We prefer men twice out age with three times our own income, drive convertibles, all live in California, and are naturally tan from head to toe. We’re also incredibly easy. Give us a shot of schnapps and we’re putty in your hands. Something about this particular hair pigment sends waves to the brain instructing blondes to strip off their clothes at the slightest provocation.

Okay, you readers are smart enough know I’m totally being sarcastic here. But, sadly, not all men know that these are blonde myths, and not realities.

As I recently learned.

The other night I’m out with Mr. Big and I get a text on my phone. I glance down. Imagine my surprise when the Firefighter’s name pops up. (Remember him? Cute, sweet, hotter than a five alarm fire?) I quickly shove the phone into my purse, thinking it’s bad date form to check another guy’s text while out with Mr. Big. So, Big and I enjoy our movie, glass of wine, dessert, and I wait until I’m on my way home to check my message. It says, “Watching Goodnight and Good Luck. Though of you.” For you regular readers, you’ll remember that was the movie Firefighter and I watched together the last time we went out.

Kind sweet I guess that he thought of me. So, I text back. “How does it end?” ‘Cause, well, I fell asleep before finding out. (Seriously, George Clooney has one of the most soothing voices ever. Insomniacs take note.)

“U can still make the ending. Come over.”

Hmmm. Nice offer, but... It’s after midnight and I’ve just come from a fab evening with Big. So, I responded with a no, thanks. Not tonight.

So, he texts again. “It’s good. I promise.”

“No, it’s late.”

“But I haven’t seen you in so long.”

Yeah, no kidding. Though, as I recall, it was him who first let things taper off into never-never-gonna-call-you-land. So I shoot back, “Sorry, stranger, maybe another time.”

“I’ll make it worth your while.”

Hold up. Brakes on.
I’m starting to think ‘movie’ may be guy code from something else. Exactly what was he thinking when he said the movie made him think of me? Maybe it wasn’t such a sweet thought after all. So, I text back a simple, “No”

“My bed wants you.”

Okay, at this point it’s clear he’s thinking I’m one of those blondes. And I’m honestly a little annoyed that he’d even contemplate booty calling me. First off – I’ve never been in his bed. Ever. Second – I haven’t talked to him in over a month. Third – I already said no, it’s now almost 1 am, and I’m tired.

So, I don’t respond. Instead, I get home, throw on a pair of pajamas, and crawl into bed.

And my phone goes off again.

“Worth the trip.”

Seriously? Is he begging? How hard up is this guy? Again, I don’t respond, hoping maybe he’ll get the hint and go away. And telling myself just what a good decision it was to ditch him for Big weeks ago.

I’m just drifting off to sleep when my phone chirps again. It’s him. Again.

“Can I sneak in2 ur house?”

Okay, that’s it. I’m way past annoyed. Now I’m pissed. I take my time, sending back a nice long text.

“Listen, pal. I am not your booty call girl. I don’t sneak. And the only bed I’ll be in belongs my boyfriend. And, in case you haven’t noticed, that isn’t you.”

A long pause. Then, “Good point, babe.”

I’m not sleepy at all anymore. Just fired up. “I know. And don’t call me babe. Goodnight.”

And that’s when I did turn off the phone. Sigh. How could I have been so wrong about Firefighter? Granted, I did move on quite happily to Mr. Big. But… still! The whole time we were dating he had me fooled into thinking he was nice guy looking for a nice girl. Turns out he’s a randy guy looking for a girl who loves “movies”.

One more thing about blondes... we’re apparently very gullible.

I’m contemplating a nice brunette wig for fall. What do you all think?

~Trigger Happy Halliday

Thursday, August 21, 2008

School Daze

It's that time of year. Leslie termed it 'the most wonderful time of the year'. Oh, I can certainly relate to that sentiment. I've just never experienced it. In the 13 years since I sent my wee ones off to kindergarten, I also had to gear up for another school year as a special education para-professional. No hurrying my kidlets to the bus stop and waving a fond farewell to them or dropping them off at the entrance, watching them walk into the building and skee-daddling to corporate America for Bullet Hole. I had to head 'back to school' just like my kids. And looked forward to it about as much.

This fall everything is different. I have a different job--one that I actually like--and all my children are ready to head off to college. Well, 'ready' may be stretching it a bit. But like it or not, it's that time of year.

Two of my three freshmen are commuting to community college their freshman year to accrue general education credits while they work and save to transfer to a four year institution--and hopefully figure out what they want to do as a career. My other two will be living on campus. I'll be helping my freshman daughter move into her dorm Saturday. Or so she assures me. As of today I see little evidence that such a move is imminent or even possible. Good thing her campus is 45 minutes away and 12 miles from my place of employment because I predict lots of 'oops, I forgot' trips.

I'll be carrying a heavy course load myself this term as I finish up my Criminal Justice degree.

I comfort myself that I won't have to deal with the 'empty nest' syndrome until next fall. Thank goodness.

This morning I was listening to my favorite radio station, 1040 WHO Radio, and it's a tradition on the first day of school for the host to read a poem called, I Trust You'll Treat Her Well--a letter written by the father of a daughter about to begin her first day of kindergarten. Not only was the co-host blubbering, but the sports guy (a father himself) was getting choked up. Me? Steel, man. Solid as steel. Like a rock.

What? You don't believe me? You think I had great gobs of mucous flowing and a thick knot of emotion in my throat? You think I went through a wad of tissues faster than I do a bowl of M&Ms? Me? The ex super trooper? The 'wonder woman' who raised four kids on her own while working, writing, and going to school?

How the heck did you guys become so bloody perceptive?

Oh. I forgot.

Many of you are writers and all of you are readers.

Duh. That's how.

For those of you who may have children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, or other children in your lives heading off to school, here's I Trust You'll Treat Her Well'. (Warning: Do not read without a box of tissues handy!)

Dear World:
I bequeath to you today one little a crispy dress...with two brown eyes...and a happy laugh that ripples all day long.. and a flash of light brown hair that bounces in the sun when she runs.
I trust you'll treat her well.

She's slipping out of the backyard of my heart this morning...and skipping off down the street to her first day of school. And never again will she be completely mine.
Prim and proud she'll wave her young and independent hand this morning and say "Goodbye" and walk with little lady steps to the schoolhouse.

Now she'll learn to stand in lines...and wait by the alphabet for her name to be called. She'll learn to tune her ears for the sounds of school-bells...and deadlines...and she'll learn to giggle...and gossip...and look at the ceiling in a disinterested way when the little boy 'cross the aisle sticks out his tongue at her. And now she'll learn to be jealous. And now she'll learn how it is to feel hurt inside. And now she'll learn how not to cry.

No longer will she have time to sit on the front porch on a summer day and watch an ant scurry across the crack in the sidewalk. Nor will she have time to pop out of bed with the dawn and kiss lilac blooms in the morning dew. No, now she'll worry about those important grades and which dress to wear and whose best friends is whose. And the magic of books and learning will replace the magic of her blocks and dolls. And now she'll find new heroes.

For five full years now I've been her sage and Santa Claus and pal and playmate and mother and friend. Now she'll learn to share her worship with her teachers ...which is only right. But no longer will I be the smartest woman in the whole world. Today when that school bell rings for the first time...she'll learn what it means to be a member of the group...with all its privileges and its disadvantages too.

She'll learn in time that proper young ladies do not laugh out loud...or kiss dogs...or keep frogs in pickle jars in bedrooms...or even watch ants scurry across cracks in sidewalks in the summer.
Today she'll learn for the first time that all who smile at her are not her friends. And I'll stand on the front porch and watch her start out on the long, lonely journey to becoming a woman.
So, world, I bequeath to you today one little a crispy dress...with two brown eyes...and a flash of light brown hair that bounces in the sunlight when she runs.

I trust you'll treat her well.

Sniff. Sniff. So. Anybody have a 'back to school' story to share? Funny or poignant. Do tell!
~Bullet Hole who is determined NOT to cry when she leaves her baby at the dorm Saturday~
I Trust You Treat Her Well Copyright © 1960, 1961, 1963, 1965, and 1966 Dan ValentineFrom the book "American Essays: Sentimental Classics Designed to Make the Heart Sing".
Published by Geo. Mc Co., Box 15671, Salt Lake City, Utah 84115

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year!

That's right! The kids go back to school today! WOOOOOOO HOOOOOOOO! You know that commercial from Office Max or someplace like that where the dad is dancing around buying school supplies to the song listed in my title and the kids are trudging as though they are headed to their deaths?

I can really relate to that.

Don't get me wrong - I love my kids. But there's something to be said for the blissfull separation that textbooks and highlighters entail. Sigh. I'll have time to actually get some work done without interruptions like, "Mom! Where are the Oreos?" and "Mom! Have you seen my pen/stuffed animal/earrings?" and the ever-popular "Mom! Jack shot at me and I'm unarmed. Isn't that against the Genevieve Conversation or something?" (It is perhaps important to note that my kids play with TOY weapons. No angry e-mails please.)

I had this precious and heartwarming discussion with my children yesterday;

Me: Yay! School is starting! ISN'T THAT GREAT???

Jack: No.

Margaret: It sucks.

Me: Hey! Watch your language! And you're wrong. It's a miracle! A Christmas miracle!

Margaret: You are really enjoying this, aren't you?

Me: YES! And don't be a buzzkill sweetheart. It's very unattractive in a fifth grader. (begin signing "Heaven, I'm In Heaven...")

Jack: Why can't you homeschool us?

Me: (the singing stops and I actually frown, increasing my likelihood of crows feet) Why do you hate me?

Jack: I know two other kids who are home-schooled.

Margaret: Yeah! They get to stay home all day!

Me: Oh my little darlings! I send you off to school every day for your own protection.

Margaret: (cocking her head like the basset hound does when he thinks he's heard his name linked with the possibility of steak and cheese) Protect us from who?

Me: From me. If I had to home school you, you wouldn't live beyond a week.

Husband: (Passing through) Oh, I don't know, Hon. I bet you'd last a week and a day at least.

Me: (Shaking my head) Thank you for your confidence but it is completely unwarranted.

Husband: (while leaving the room) You may be right.

Kids: This sucks.

Me: Watch your language. Now, who's up for a school-supplies-shopping marathon? (Raising my hand and jumping up and down with glee)

Sigh. Memories that will last a lifetime...

The Assassin

Fate, Epiphanies & Boats

Opps! Opps!

Last week I posted that Kimmy had won the prize on my "Call" blog. Well, duh, I goofed. It wasn't Kimmy. It was Kammy. So . . . Kammy, if you are out there. Please email me, through my website address, and give me your snail mail so I can get your prize to you.

Crime Scene Christie

I’m sitting here wondering what I should blog about, and leave it to my husband to save the day. Poor guy, he doesn’t ask to star in so many of my blogs, but somehow he manages to always get there by just being himself. And if he isn’t DOING something blog-worthy, he’s reminding me of something he DID that was blog worthy.

This time, he simply walked in and asked one question, “Hey, you want to take the day off and let’s take the boat out and do some fishing?”

Ah-ha! Like magic, my mind shuffles through my memory bank and finds the perfect blog. A blog about fate, about epiphanies. About . . . boats. If you are like me, you probably don’t know much about boats, but I’ll bet you guys know a thing or two about fate and epiphanies, right?

Now, this blog-worthy situation goes back 16 years. I was flying back from a writer’s conference. I walk out of the plane, looking for hubby and son. (This was when they could meet you at the gate.) They are always there, on time. Hey, they love me. But this time, there are not there. Did they decide to replace me while I was gone?

Thirty minutes pass before a very hurried, very ragged, dressed in old clothes, and smelling like sun screen, hubby and four-year-old son appear running down the airport toward my gate. Hubby gives me a guilty greeting. Son shifts nervously from one foot to the other. The foot shifting is a sign of one of two things. He’s gotta pee, or he’s got a secret and he’s just dying to tell it.

I look from Hubby’s guilty expression to son. “Stevie, do you need to go to the bathroom?”

He shifts back and forth. “No.” He glances at his dad, looks as if he’s gonna burst if he doesn’t spill the beans. Okay, now I start worrying. Then son blurted it out. “Daddy and I bought a boat.”

I relaxed a little knowing I hadn’t been replaced, then it hit me, and I eyed my hubby. “You mean a toy boat, right? Plastic?”

Son shook his head. “Nope. A real boat. A big, really big boat.”

I looked back at hubby. I totally got the guilty expression then. Remember, hubby’s cheap, right? Well, hubby had long since implemented a household rule. One never made a purchase over $200 without first speaking to the other. This rule was etched in stone.

And something told me this big, really big boat, might have run a bit more than $200. Jeepers, that really big boat probably ran about the same amount of the living room suite I’d been wanting to buy, but hubby had suggested we wait until we pay off a few more bills. Hmm…

Hubby cleared his throat. “I can explain.”

“I’ll just bet you can,” I said. “And I’ll give you the chance to do that right after I buy my new living room suite.”

He flinched, and I knew it was because he was already trying to figure out how much this little bit of fate was going to cost him. Yup, he knew that new living room furniture was as good as mine.

As we headed to baggage claim, hubby started explaining, desperately trying to get out of sleeping on the sofa—especially since that sofa had about two springs that if sat on just right, could perform a colonoscopy .

Hubby continued, “I was doing my morning chores, thinking it was the perfect weather to be out on the water. I opened the paper and darn if I’m not in the want ads and right there is an ad for a johnboat. Then I turned the page and ended up on the obituary section. And I saw it . . . Ted Smith—the same Ted Smith I went to school with. And right there, sitting on the throne,” (yup, that was his morning chore) “I had an epiphany. It was a sign and I knew it.”

He paused. “Aren’t you going to ask me what kind of sign?”

I looked at him. “Sure I am, but I’m still trying to figure out if I want to go with the paisley material for the sofa or the solid material.”

He blinked and continued. “What the sign meant is that I had to start living life before it was too late. I had to buy that boat.”

Now, I’ll admit that it was a good story, and convincing since I’m a big believer in fate and all. But it was not good enough to prevent me from getting a new living room suite. And I was leaning toward the paisley material.

Now, the story doesn’t end with the new paisley sofa, with the new set of chairs and coffee table. Oh, no, it gets much better. You see, two days later, hubby got a call from another old school buddy. Did he know poor Ted Smith had passed? I heard hubby saying that yep, he’d seen the obituaries. Then I heard hubby say… “No, you’re kidding. No!”

He hung up and just stared at me. “What?” I asked.

He turned white. “Uhh, I just found out what Ted died of.”


He turned even whiter. “Uh, a . . .a boating accident.”

Okay, now no disrespect to Ted, but I couldn’t help laughing. And then I wrote that up and sent in it in to Reader’s Digest. And they paid me $400 for that little story. Hubby still insisted that it had been fate and the $400 dollars went to help pay for the boat. Of course, I insisted that it helped pay for the living room suite.

So . . . was it fate? Have you guys ever had an epiphany? Ever got a nice piece of furniture, or gift, because your hubby messed up? If so, share. I’d love to hear about it.

Crime Scene Christie

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Importance of Being Unique

So last week we all blogged our call stories (and Christie wins the biggest laugh for taking her call on the john), but just writing the blog reminded me of all the things that happened when I first started thinking of writing. That moment when I REALLY realized that I had been raised in a different universe. Because you see, Louisiana just isn't normal. Heck, it isn't even close. In fact, I'm pretty sure "normal" is banned in Louisiana. It's Napoleanic law, remember?

Let me give you an example of something different: Last week at work, I was at a staff meeting with the other tech writers and we were talking about people who drink too much which segued into drive-thru liquor sales. One guy told the story of the beer in his hometown that had a drive-thru window so that you could pick up your brew without having to leave your car. Then they asked me if we had something like that in Louisiana. I said "Yeah, but in Louisiana, you can get the DRINKS in the drive-thru." And I swear, I'm not making it up. The one in my hometown of Sulphur was called the Frosty Factory back when I lived there, and it was a drive-thru for frozen drinks - alcoholic frozen drinks. So if you wanted a magarita, pina colado, or anything else made with alcohol and ice, you could get it at the Frosty Factory. There was a list of sixty different drinks hand painted on two sheets of plywood (that was the menu). Then you pulled forward and gave your order at the window.

Now, some might be wondering if there is an open container law in Lousiana. Well, of course there is. The whole state's not rednecks. But you see, they put LIDS on the drinks - and a strip of tape across the hole (well, they never actually manage to get it over the hole, really, but who's taking pictures). So the Frosty Factory is totally operating within the law...Louisiana style.

Or consider the fact that the drinking age when I was a teen was 18. It changed to 21 shortly after I started college, but I was "grandfathered" in. Apparently, the state didn't feel it was fair to allow me to drink for a year then take it away. Quite frankly, the state didn't want to change the law at all. I'm pretty sure alcohol sales accounts for a large portion of the sales tax revenue in the state, but the federal government was threatening to cut highway funding if they didn't comply, so they only Louisiana does. You see, even after the change in law, you could still get into a bar at 18. It was then up to the discretion of the bartender whether he wanted to see ID or not.

In my upcoming book, Louisiana law plays a big part in the plot, and I must admit, I caught some flak from readers. I was accused of using something untrue as a plot device (gasp). Horrors! Because that's never happened in fiction, right? And what had everyone up in arms? Was it the secondary character that's a ghost....oh, no, that's not the unrealistic part of the story apparently. The unrealistic part is my married heroine who is unable to get a divorce because she can't locate her disappearing husband to serve him. He's been gone for years.

But you see, in Louisiana, there are two ways to gain a divorce - serve someone or produce a body. Many have probably opted to make number 2 happen when number 1 proved to be a big pain in the rear, but they're probably not going to admit it, and the alligators don't talk.

Last year I read that several towns in Louisiana have banned baggy pants.

So what about your city/state/country - any interesting laws on the books?

Deadly DeLeon

Winners, Winners, Winners

We just wanted to announce it one more time in case anyone missed their names.

The winners for this week are:

Sunday-- Cassandra
Monday --Mia Rose
Tuesday -- Kimmy
Wednesday --Karen in nc
Thursday --Virginia
Friday -- Tori
Saturday -- Gram

Congratulations to all the winners!!

Thank you everyone for helping us celebrate our one-year anniversary. And as we say here in Texas, "Ya'll come back ya hear!"

The Killer Fiction Girls

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Ciara Gold on the Antics of the Absent Minded

Winner, Winner, Winner!!

Gram, you are the lucky winner of the Ciara Gold's autographed book. Pop on to my website, and send me your snail mail address so Ciara can get your prize in the mail ASAP.

Thanks for posting on Killer Fiction.

Crime Scene Christie

I'd like to introduce you guys to one of my writing buddies. Ciara Gold's not only a talented lady, she's just downright nice, and taller than I am, and thinner. (I try not to hold that against her!) Because it's still our anniversary week, I've twisted her arm into giving away a signed copy of her book. So guys, make sure you post. You won't be disappointed.

Crime Scene Christie

First I want to thank Christie Craig for inviting me to guest blog. What fun. For those of you that don’t know me or my work, I write historical western romance and sci-fi futuristic romance (I won an Eppie last year for A Noble Sacrifice)

Okay, now that my shameless promoting is out of the way, I’d like to tell you a story. Ever get so overwhelmed you start forgetting really important things? I’m not talking appointments or bills, I’m talking really, really important things like your whole life.

So – here’s a little more about me. I’m an A-type personality who’s a workaholic. I’m a wife and mother, a full time job and then some. I teach full time so school is about to start, and I’m in the midst of lesson plans and other preparations. I’m the editor for a local magazine called Flirt, an artist, a webmistress for three websites, and a published author. Perhaps I have a good excuse for being preoccupied????

I hate shopping and I’m not a typically negative person, but this is my least favorite thing to do. It rates right up there with the mammogram. But – we’re out of food and one must shop if one plans to cook and feed the family. I head off to my local Krogers and experience a rather typical shopping moment. No lines, no fuss, pretty laid back because the college students have yet to return to town. No worries – or so I think. I pay and then push my cart leisurely out into the parking lot. Still no worries. The sun’s even shining.

By now, I’m in my other world. You know, that dream world where you start concentrating about this and that, new plots, lesson plans, the articles I need to interview for, what I’m going to wear my first day back, dinner, did I feed the dog already ….. And while I’m in my other world, I unload all my groceries, return the cart, and drive home.

I pull up in front of my house, turn off the car, go to grab my purse …. Go to grab my purse…. OMG, where’s my purse? And then it dawns on me.

Yep, I’d left my purse sitting in the front basket of my shopping cart, in the parking lot of my friendly neighborhood Krogers for all the world to see and steal.

Panic time. I revved the engine, peeled out into the street, tried real hard not to speed too badly and rushed back to Krogers. My heart sank when I saw no purse in that cart. Now, you have to realize that during this panic time, my overactive imagination has gone into dreamland hell. I’m running through all sorts of scenarios and none pleasant. Who do I call first? The police? The banks? The credit cards? My husband? Hmmm, maybe not my husband. This is not something I’m looking forward to explaining.

I park the car, run into the store, confront the bagger with a “Please tell me someone turned it in.” He, of course, gives me a blank stare. I turn to the costumer service counter and felt my heart drop. There it was. My purse sat on the counter with not one, but three service employees looking through it and one already on the phone. Yeah, looks like I don’t have to call my husband after all. Krogers already did. The most embarrassing end to the story is that five of the employees, four at the checkouts and one at the service booth were all my students from last year. Big sigh. I wish I could have thanked the gentleman/hero who turned it in.

Of course, being the writer I am, I get into my car, very relieved to have my whole life back and begin to plot. Just imagine a character so spaced out, she forgets her purse and someone does pick it up. What does she do next? What would you do?

Friday, August 15, 2008

Gemma's Close Call

And the randomly selected winner of a signed copy of Alibi in High Heels and a spa set is.... Tori Lennox! Congrats, Tori! Send me an email to confirm your mailing address and I'll pop it in the mail to you ASAP.

Happy anniversary to us, happy anniversary to us, happy anniveeeeeeeeersary dear Killer Fiction…

Okay, I won’t subject you to my singing any longer. I’ll just cut right to the good stuff: today’s prize! I’m giving away a signed copy of ALIBI IN HIGH HEELS along with a cute little spa set of Sheer Freesia body wash, shower gel, and a shower puff. Smells awesome!

I have to say, I have been absolutely loving reading everyone’s “The Call” stories this week. It just goes to show that writers have wildly different paths to publication. Mine started out one fine day when I home alone, bored, and in desperate need of reading material. I’d never really read romance much before, but I’d read everything in the house except this romance book shelf that I’d gotten as a free gift somewhere. So, I figured I’d give the genre a try.

Two hours later I threw it against the wall. I’m sorry to say it was not a good romance novel. (No, I won’t be naming names.) In fact, it was horrible. Terrible. Sucked big time. I was so disgusted that I decided right there and then that I could do better than that. So, I did a little research online, found out what the publisher was looking for, what sort of books were out there, started reading romance in all my free time. I set aside two weeks to write my novel.

Well, turns out it’s a lot harder than I’d thought to write a terrible romance novel, let alone a good one. My two weeks turned into three, into four, into five… finally after three months I had what I thought was a pretty descent romance. So, I sent off a query to the publisher and they immediately responded asking to see the full manuscript. I was over the moon! I packed my baby off with loving care, sure I was on the fast track to the NY Times bestseller list, and waited for a reply. And waited. And waited. (Apparently it took a lot longer to read a romance novel than I thought, too.) Finally I heard back. She loved it… but it needed some work. Fix these things and resubmit. At first, I was crushed. What did she mean my masterpiece needed work!? But, by that time I’d joined some online writing communities who all told me I was nuts if I was upset by a request for revisions. This is a fabulous thing. So, I picked myself up, rewrote the thing and sent it back in.

Only to be crushed again when that editor left the publishing house and her replacement sent me a form rejection. Apparently my first manuscript was not to be my bestseller.

But by that time I was hooked. The writing bug had bit and I just knew I could do this. Like everything else about publishing, it just looked like selling was going to take a little bit longer than I’d originally planned. So, I gave myself a deadline. If I hadn’t sold a book by two years from that day, I’d consider writing a hobby and switch career focuses to something else.

And so, I kept writing. Even when my second, third, fourth, and fifth manuscripts turned out not to be my bestsellers, I kept writing. And getting rejected. By the time I was ready to sit down and start book number 6, my pile of agent and editor rejections was almost as tall as I was. With heels. I was at my wit’s end. I had no idea what publishers were looking for. I’d made 5 incorrect guesses and was beyond frustrated trying to figure out the secret formula to get in the door. So, I had a “screw-it” moment and started writing the book I wanted to write instead of the book I thought I could sell. I wrote about funny, poignant, taboo, and fun stuff. I had no idea if anyone else would like it, but I LOVED it. Once it was finished, I packed it off to a slew of contests and awaited the responses.

What do you know, it did well! Apparently when I turned off my internal censor, I could actually write something pretty decent. That manuscript won several smaller contests, and I was absolutely stunned and blown away when it finaled in the Golden Heart contest. (Along with Kathy!)

Being a Golden Heart finalist was like being queen for a week at the national conference. It was my first writing conference of any kind, my first time meeting other writers face to face, and my first time pitching anything to anyone in person. I was so nervous. I think my first pitch consisted of, “I wrote a book. I’m not sure what it’s about because I’m shaking too hard to read my notes. But it’s good. I swear.” Luckily, I got better. Luckily, I stopped shaking. And luckily, I pitched to Leah Hultenschmidt on the last day of conference and not the first. I think I had my pitch down by the time I grabbed her in an elevator and shoved a business card at her, telling her all about my Golden Heart book and this other little book, Spying in High Heels, that I’d been working on in the meantime. Another one where I’d turned off my internal censor and come up with this crazy idea to blend romance, humor, and mystery into one book. I’m not sure if she was just being nice, or really interested, but she asked to see both books as soon as I got home. I was thrilled! I didn’t think my conference experience could get any better.

Well, it did. Just a little. When my no-rules book won the Golden Heart that night. Yep, that’s me in the picture wearing my Golden Heart necklace just after the ceremony. Still looking a little stunned. (And, yes, that is a janitor closet behind me. Ah, the glamorous life…)

So, remember that two year deadline I’d set for myself after my first rejection? Well, the very day I hit the two year expiration date on my promise to myself, I got a call from my agent. He told me he had good news and bad news. The good news was that Leah loved Spying in High Heels and wanted to buy it. The bad news was I was now going to be a very busy woman.

That’s the kind of bad news I can handle.

I did a very professional, “Uh, huh. Sure, great,” then hung up and screamed like a banshee, jumping up and down on the sofa. (I am the original Tom Cruise.) When I calmed down, I called my critiqued partner… who then screamed like a banshee and we both jumped some more.

While that first sale was an amazing experience, I have to say that with each subsequent book sale, I still get that OMG-is-this-really-happening-to-me feeling. While there’s nothing like your first, it never gets old.

I’ve just learned now that when it comes to deadlines, to give myself a little more wiggle room in the future. ;) No more close calls.

~Gemma "Trigger Happy" Halliday

Thursday, August 14, 2008

'The Call' or Bullet Hole's 'Lunch Special'

Drum roll please! The winner of my drawing for a canvas bag and autographed copies of my books CALAMITY JAYNE HEADS WEST and FIANCE AT HER FINGERTIPS is... ... ...Virginia! So, Virginia. Drop by my website at and go to my Contact Me page and email me your name and address information and I'll drop the goodies in the mail to you! Thanks again to everyone who helped Killer Fiction celebrate our first year together! You rock!


In the spirit of our inaugural anniversary celebration, all of the Dangerous Divas here at Killer Fiction are sharing their ‘The Call’ stories. I still love hearing ‘Call’ stories, but back before I was published, I really loved hearing these ‘dream come true’ stories. It gave me hope that one day I would have a ‘call’ story of my own to share. It kept me writing. Kept me dreaming. Kept me from setting fire to stacks of manuscripts and having a weenie roast.
My ‘call story’ goes like this.
Back when I first began to write for publication more years ago than I care to share with you nice folks--a divorced mom with a five-year-old and a set of three-year-old triplets-- I wrote historical romances. Western Historical Romances to be precise. Raised on horses, liberal doses of Duke Wayne, and possessing an abundant imagination, I figured it was a good fit. I joined Romance Writers of America and my local chapter and set out to write the ‘Great American Western Romance Novel’. From my RWA membership I learned that there were fabulous contests aspiring author types like me could enter, garnering feedback from judges and, perhaps, even catching the eye of a final judge editor or agent. Sweet. So I polished up the first chapters of my rousing western and sent it off to the Fiction of the Heartland Contest sponsored by the Mid America Romance Authors chapter. Guess what? I finaled! But that wasn’t the best part. The published author who judged my entry had taken the time to enclose a lovely, complimentary handwritten note with my score sheets. That judge? None other than Cheryl St. John, Harlequin Historical author and RITA nominee. Cheryl’s letter of encouragement made me dare to believe I might actually be published some day. And, believe me. I needed a reason to believe back then.

I finished the book and began the arduous process of trying to find it a home. I had nibbles aplenty. Requests for partials and fulls. But no sale.

So much for the ‘Great American Western Novel’.

Never one to mope for long, however, I decided to try my hand at penning a Harlequin Romance. My first and only attempt was titled, CHANCE FOR A LIFETIME. In case you hadn’t guessed already, the hero’s name was ‘Chance’. I know. Uber lame. The manuscript is stuck away in the top of my closet rarely unlikely to see the light of day--unless I have a particularly masochistic moment and decide to drag it out just for ‘fun’.

At this point I decided I needed to go in yet another direction. I’d always tried to see the humor in any given situation, tried to keep things fun--and funny--for the kids during some pretty unfunny times. So, I turned my hand to humor. I wrote an off the wall romantic comedy titled FIANCÉ AT HER FINGERTIPS and began to send it out into the world.

While I was garnering rejections left and right, two things happened. One. I entered the Golden Heart and, two, my mother brought a newspaper article to my attention. The article was about a young man who borrows his in-laws’ car and drives it to the mall to shop. He leaves the mall and drives back to his in-laws’ house, pulls up into their driveway and his father-in-law comes outside and says, “That’s not our car.” My mom thought the intriguing little fact that certain ignition keys also fit certain other vehicles might spark a story idea or two--and was she ever right! Once I found the perfect heroine--cockeyed cowgirl ‘Calamity Jayne’ Turner--I was off and running. In the interim I learned that I was a Golden Heart finalist for Fiancé at Her Fingertips. What a huge thrill.

With CALAMITY JAYNE finished, I began the task of sending out queries. Again. In the meantime I noticed Dorchester Publishing and Romantic Times Book Review formerly known as RT BOOKclub were co-sponsoring the first American Title Contest with the first prize to be a book contract. How cool was that? The contest was seeking contemporary novels! What a coincidence!

So I entered CALAMITY JAYNE and I was one of the ten finalists! What a wild ride. Unfortunately, I was booted off the AT Island in the third round. Majorly disappointed, I came home from work one day for lunch to discover Alicia Condon, Editorial Director with Dorchester Publishing had left a message indicating Senior Editor Chris Keeslar had read CALAMITY JAYNE and was really excited about it and would I please give him a call.
Would I? Are you kidding?

The rest, as they say, is history. I’ve published seven books with Dorchester since the American Title Contest in 2005--six ‘Tressa Jayne Turner’ mysteries, plus my Golden Heart finaling FIANCÉ AT HER FINGERTIPS, released in late April which, coincidentally, had been rejected by my very same editor years before. Just goes to show what persistence--and a rewrite--can do. My sixth ‘Tressa Jayne Turner mystery’ ANCHORS AWEIGH will ‘launch’ October 28th.
As a side note, although I didn’t win the Golden Heart back in 2005 my life has been enriched in so many ways by the awesome group of ladies--and gentleman--who make up the 2005 Golden Heart nominees dubbed ‘The Wild Cards’—including the incomparable Gemma Halliday. The Wild Cards are a constant source of support, encouragement, information, and inspiration. I count this as one of my most valued contest prize wins.
Speaking of prizes, if you post a comment I’ll put you in a drawing to win a nifty little Burpee book bag and autographed copies of my latest release, FIANCÉ AT HER FINGERTIPS, as well as a copy of CALAMITY JAYNE HEADS WEST, so you’ll be all set to go when ANCHORS AWEIGH sets sail October 28.
Oh. I bet you’re wondering how I plan to celebrate our auspicious anniversary here at KF. Right?
I’m painting my bedroom & baking zucchini bread. Don’t I
just sound like Dottie Domestic today?
~Bullet Hole Bacus~

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Call Me! All Night! You Can Call Me Any Anytime!

Respond today and I'll draw the winner tomorrow who will receive autographed copies of GUNS WILL KEEP US TOGETHER & STAND BY YOUR HITMAN!
Okay. The call. A fascinating story - at least to me.

As some of you may know, I met my editor at a conference and she'd asked me to send the first three chapters of 'SCUSE ME WHILE I KILL THIS GUY, which was originally titled DEATH IN THE FAMILY (lame title when you compare it to 'SCUSE ME, but there you go). I overnighted the chapters and the very, next day, I got an e-mail from Leah asking for the whole ms! She had DEATH IN THE FAMILY in the subject line, which sounded like I'd had, well, a death in the family, and wondering how my future publisher would know that. Then I thought that was real service, notifying prospective authors of the death of family.

Anyway, I spent four days writing like a madwoman with Tourettes Syndrome (it was pretty educational for the kids) - polishing the thing up and I sent it out the day before my husband and I were leaving for L.A. for a bodyguard convention. (Sounds like fun, don't it? It was. Sigh.)

We got back on Monday and the very next day, Tuesday, I was still tired because, well, I may have had a little too much fun. I'd changed into an old t-shirt and shorts and prepared to take a little nap at 2pm. I'd just laid down when the phone rang and i saw DORCHESTER on the caller ID.

Needless to say, I jumped out of bed and answered the phone. My husband was in the doorway and froze when he heard my voice. Leah offered to buy the book! We agreed to talk the next day about the particulars.

Tom had two bottles of Moet & Chandon White Star out and open in the backyard. We had sparkling grape juice for the kids - of course, and just sat outside, drinking champagne while I called everyone I knew - starting of course with mom.

I'm sure my neighbors thought I was nuts screaming drunkenly into the phone for two hours. Oh well.

The best part is that same day I got an e-mail from an agent, turning the book down, saying, "Gin Bombay is unlikeable and no publisher will ever buy the book."

And the rest, is history...

The Assassin

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Are You Sitting Down?

And the winner of the $10 gift certificate from Barnes and Noble, the pack of note cards and the autographed copy of Divorced, Desperate and Delicious is... Kimmie! Kimmie, please visit my website,, and send me an email with your snail mail address and I'll get your prize out to you ASAP. Congrats!

Crime Scene Christie

I got the email from Gemma a while back, suggesting that for Killer Fiction’s anniversary week, we all blog about our “call” stories.My first thought was, “Sounds great.” Although, I think I might have blogged about that before.

Then a little voice in my head—a voice which had been forbidden to speak—fought to free itself from the dungeon of my mind, “But you’ve never blogged about the first ‘call’ story.”
Oh, no, I hadn’t ever blogged about it. I had, for apparent reasons, tried to bury the memory beneath cement, had barred the memory from my mind, and vowed to never, ever, let it become public knowledge. Of course, that vow was made before . . . before I got to that place in my life that I decided that there were no secrets, no shame, that where my career and fans were concerned, their was nothing I couldn’t, wouldn’t talk about.

Yes, I sort of have two calls stories—there’s the recent one that brought me back into novel publishing, and it’s motivational, inspiration.
Most recent call—2006
I’d been entering unpublished novel contests, and after several wins, I’d snagged the interest of an agent. She had been sending some of my work out to publishers and I was still entering contests trying to get some editor’s attention. After another big win in a contest, I had my hopes up that I might be getting the call soon. And then it came early one morning before I even got dressed. My agent asked, “Are you sitting down?” (Take note that all publishing professionals like to ask this question.)

Heart racing, I replied, “I’ve been waiting for this for six years. I can take it standing up.” (Looking back, this response may have been due to my past ‘call’ experience.) “I’ve sold a book, haven’t I?”

Being a total New Yorker, her reply was quick. “No. You haven’t a sold a book. “The thought that ran through my head was . . .shoot me now. I mean I was so ready for it to happen, and from my agent’s tone, I just knew I had finally arrived.Then my agent continued, “You’ve sold four.”

Breathless and in my southern drawl, I answered, “I need to sit down.”
First call—1993
I’d been writing for nine years, I’d even finaled in the Golden Heart Contest with my novel, Two Hearts Too Late, a sweet romance targeted to the Silhouette Romance line. The book didn’t sell, but I knew it had promise. So, a few years after it made the GH awards, I rewrote it from page one, and when I was six chapters into it, I entered it into another contest. An editor from Silhouette was the judge and if you finaled, you actually got to chat with the editor at the conference.
I was one of the lucky finalists, and the afternoon before the awards ceremony, I remember the sophisticated editor looking at me all serious-like and saying, “I want to read the rest of this book. I really, really like this story.”

I remember thinking she was just being nice.

Later that night at the awards ceremony, I was awarded first place. And it hit me, wow, she really did like my story.In a couple of months, manuscript complete, I packaged my 240 page story along with my hopes and dreams, and I sent the package to her. Sure, I was excited, but I wasn’t holding my breath. I’d heard of other writers getting this close and then getting the big rejection that hits you right in the gut. Hmm…speaking of gut pain…
Several months passed and I received a letter that simply said she had read it, liked it a lot, and had passed it to the senior editor. Okay, my hopes grew, I held my breath just a little bit, but I reminded myself how easy it was for those hopes to get flushed down the toilet. And speaking of toilets…
The day the call in, I was running around the house; my son, a toddler at the time, and my older daughter had both been hit with a stomach virus. Hubby was supposed to get some medicine on his way home from work, which he was about to walk out of the office. He’d called to get the med’s information—we didn’t do cell phones back then—but his boss had walked into his office, and hubby not wanting to discuss diarrhea meds with his boss in the room, said, “I’ll call you back in just a second.”
Well, of course, that’s when my stomach suddenly started rolling, I didn’t have a second to wait. Phone, still in hand, I ran.
One minute later, the phone rings. No, I didn’t have caller ID—and yes, like an idiot I answered it, certain it was my husband. “You’d better hurry,” I said. “Now I’ve got it.”
“Excuse me,” said this voice with a New York accent. “Is Christie Craig in?”Maybe I should have lied and said she was indisposed. Maybe I should have just told the truth and said she was presently sitting on the pot, bare-bottomed, a wad of toilet paper in one hand, and a phone in the other, but nope, I didn’t.
“This is her,” I said.“Hi Christie, this is Risa, from Silhouette Romance.”
My heart started to flutter, right along with my intestines. Then in a very sophisticated voice she asked, “Are you sitting down?”
“As a matter of fact I am,” I answered.
So there you have it, my embarrassing publication call story that I swore I’d never tell. Now doesn’t it seem like fate that I use just a little potty humor in my books?
Okay…you guys know we are giving away prizes this week, right? So today one lucky poster will win a $10 gift certificate from Barnes & Noble bookstore, a pack of the “new” note cards, and a signed copy of my book, Divorced, Desperate and Delicious. So come on, post away. Share an embarrassing story or just offer a few sympathies to me for telling my own embarrassing story.
But post!
Crime Scene Christie

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Call of the Redneck

Drumroll please: AND THE WINNER IS..................................MIA ROSE!!!!!!!!
Congratulations, Mia! Please send me an email at
jana (at) janadeleon (dot) com

And I will send your Louisiana prize package out for you to enjoy. Also, in your email, please let me know if you want the autograph personalized. Thanks for reading and coming to our anniversary celebration!

Welcome everyone to the anniversary celebration for Killer Fiction. Can you believe it's been a year already? I can't. Apparently, time flies when you're hanging out with such fabulous people. For our anniversay week, we're all going to share with readers our stories of "the call," and giving out prizes to boot. My prize is a gift bag complete with Louisiana goodies, and a signed copy of RUMBLE ON THE BAYOU and UNLUCKY. All you have to do is post to be entered to win. So you want to know about the call, right? Well, in order to understand my call, you have to understand why I started writing in the first place.

The truth is, I was always writing. I wrote some of my first stories in grade school. But reality sank in and I got into high school and college and off into my career and although I was a voracious reader, the urge to write was never a dominant one. Then one year someone introduced me to Janet Evanovich. A couple of months later my grandmother passed away and I trekked to Louisiana for what would be the final gathering of my mom's family in one place. Now, it had been years and years since I'd seen a lot of my family and even longer since so many had been in the same space. Standing in the cemetary, I looked around and thought "these are the strangest people in the world, and by god, if Evanovich can write crazy characters in New Jersey, why can't I do it in Louisiana?" So I went home and started writing.

Now, I have always been a mystery lover. Started with Trixie Beldon, moved on to Nancy Drew and have the entire collection of THE QUEEN OF ALL MYSTERY WRITERS, Agatha Christie. But I knew there was no way in hell I would ever measure up to Dame Agatha, and I wasn't even about to try. I also had a huge love for the happily ever after. I wasn't actually a big romance reader, but I loved stories that also contained a romance. Life is hard enough. I like my fiction to have a satisfying ending. So I set out to write a romance/mystery hybrid - a genre that didn't quite exist. I knew it would be a hard sell. I knew I was setting myself up for rejection, but that's where my heart was and I didn't feel I could write with the same enthusiasm for anything else.

RUMBLE ON THE BAYOU landed me my ultra-fabulous agent, Kristin Nelson, and I was off to submission hell. And that's when things got hard. You see, if editors had just said "not good enough," I could have kept working and written something better. Instead I got "I love it but don't know what to do with it." It was passed up the line and went to committee at different houses, but the outcome was always the same - we're going to pass. So I asked Kristin what we were going to do. She suggested maybe we should shelve it for now and go back to it later. Get another book out there and see what would happen.

But what was the point, I asked. The second book will be another humorous contemporary romance/mystery hybrid set in southern Louisiana and everyone will be just as scared to take a chance on it as they are on RUMBLE. Then we got the offer from Leah Hultenschmidt at Dorchester. Not only did Leah "get" my voice and style - she loved it. It was a match made in heaven and I couldn't be happier with the enthusiasm and support I get from Leah and Dorchester.

Leah called me at work the afternoon I accepted the offer, and we had a great conversation. I remember her words "I'm so excited to buy this book because for one, it's great and two, it needs no work." (Of course, we're not going to talk about the three page edit letter she sent later on) :)

I couldn't believe it. Not only had I sold the unsaleable novel in the non-existent genre, but Dorchester (in their infinite wisdom) had decided to push an entire line of mystery hybrids, starting with Gemma and Kathleen. I couldn't ask for better company.

Am I the best writer? Heck no. Is my technique where I think it needs to be? Um, I'm going to plead the fifth. But I'll tell you what I DO have that I think makes all the difference in the world.....I entertain people. I make people laugh.

Expect the unexpected is what I shoot for in my books. I like the twists and turns of the mystery as well as the hidden secrets from the character's pasts. I love to entertain and absolutely nothing makes me happier than getting an email from a reader that says I made them laugh. Life is hard. Laughter is the best drug on earth.

In conclusion, I want to leave you with a video of an audition for the show America's Got Talent. The guy plays the trombone and when he walked on stage I thought "god, I hope he's good, b/c trombone........not so interesting." I couldn't have been more wrong. THIS guy knows the value of laughter. THIS guy knows how to entertain. And he was certainly unexpected. Enjoy.

Deadly DeLeon

Cover Model Julian Fantechi

And the winner of the hot Ellora's Cave playing cards pack is... Cassandra! Cassandra, email me with your snail mail address and I'll get your prize out to you ASAP. Congrats!

Welcome to our anniversary party!!!!

Today Killer Fiction is one year old, and Kathy, Christie, Jana, Leslie and I could not be more thrilled! We’re so psyched that all of you have enjoyed our thoughts, musings, and general ramblings over the past year. Thanks for making our jobs so fun and we hope to spend many more years just like this one.

So, without further ado… let’s get this party started! Today I’m giving away a pack of super hot Ellora’s Cave playing cards to one lucky commenter. All you have to do to be entered is post a comment to this thread! Something that should be easy when I introduce our special guest to kick off party week… Julian Fantechi! He’s a model/actor/all-around-totally-hot-guy who has been featured in magazines ranging from Playgirl to Men’s Health, with even a stint on Ugly Betty last year. I was lucky enough to catch up to Julian for an interview this week and here’s what the superstud had to say…

Gemma: Julian, thanks so much for coming to play with us. I've been to your website ( and all I can say is – wow! You have an impressive body of work. (No pun intended.) Playgirl, Men's Health, even a stint on the TV show Ugly Betty. And you were named Playgirl Magazine's Man of the Year 2007. (And I can see why!) So, what was it like being in Playgirl?

Julian: Thank you. Playgirl has been a fun and awesome experience. The shots I did have all been tasteful and artistic. However I am done with posing in the magazine. From now on my clothes stay on.

Gemma: (pouting just a little... really? All the clothes have to stay on?) Okay, so, how does doing print work compare to film or TV? Can you tell us a little bit about your experiences on Ugly Betty?

Julian: Working on Ugly Betty was a lot of fun. Getting to meet the main characters and see all the work the goes on behind the scenes was totally cool.

Gemma: I gotta tell you, you were hot on that show. That six pack you have would make Budweiser jealous. Do you follow a special workout regimen or do anything special to get ready for a shoot?

Julian: I am a natural bodybuilder and put in long hard sessions at the gym. Getting ready for a shoot is a great motivator. Knowing that I am going to have my shirt off in front of the camera makes me work harder in the gym. Don't want to show up for a shoot and have them look at me and say um......are you sure you are Julian Fantechi? LOL.

Gemma: Trust me, there's no mistaking that bod. ;) Okay, the girls would never forgive me if I didn't ask this one – are you as romantic in real life as the characters you portray on romance novel covers?

Julian: I love doing romance novel covers and hope to do more in the future. Romance is an art form and something that needs to developed and worked on. Women are very special and I appreciate and respect them with all my heart. They truly are the better gender. For without them man would have nothing to live for!

Gemma: I like the way you think. So, what's next for you? Any fun projects on the horizon?

Julian: I'm hoping to get more into acting in future. I was just offered a part in community theater presentation of the Full Monty and a part in an independent film. So let's see where this wonderful road will lead me. Hopefully into all of your hearts.

Gemma: I could definitely see you doing the Full Monty justice! Thanks so much for coming to chat with us, and best of luck to you in all your future projects!

Be sure to join us tomorrow as the anniversary party continues with more fun prizes and Jana "Deadly" DeLeon's story of how she got "The Call" and sold her first book!

~ Gemma "Trigger Happy" Halliday