Archive for December, 2011
Currently working on: A new story!
Mood: Follow that plot bunny!
Did everybody have a fun holiday? Here are my highlights:
I totally screwed up the frosting for my Christmas Eve party cupcakes. I’d decided to use a sour cream frosting for my blackout cupcakes but when I followed the glossary at the back to page 462 and started making the recipe… It was the WRONG recipe. It was a fluffy chocolate frosting. The actual sour cream frosting was on page 463. Catastrophe! That might not seem like the worst thing in the world… Unless it’s 2:30 pm Christmas Eve Day and the party starts in mere hours. You CANNOT go to the grocery store on Christmas Eve Day, as you all know.
So I totally winged it. (Wung it?) I kept the ingredients I’d already mixed together and just added sour cream. And it totally worked.
Christmas Lesson Learned: You can’t go wrong with pretty much any proportions of cocoa, whipping cream, sour cream and vanilla.
Christmas Corollary: Double check the name of the recipe before you start mixing ingredients.
After thankfully not ruining the Christmas Eve party cupcakes, I spent Christmas Day with my XY and dog. Ah, bliss. Pictured right are the gifts he got me. Which apparently have been wrapped by monkeys. Monkeys with access to all my Christmas ribbons and yet somehow have managed to NOT use the Christmas wrapping paper but birthday wrapping paper instead. Which would be fine if Baby Jesus was getting this particular present, since it’s his birthday, but this was my present.
Happily, one of the presents was a double boiler so I can more easily melt chocolate like in the first picture.
Christmas Lesson Learned: Bows and ribbons and wrapping paper — or the lack and/or incompetent wielding thereof — can’t hide the love.
Christmas Corollary: Men require inordinate amounts of tape.
I eat a lot of chocolate at Christmas, as is obvious from my posts, but not so voraciously as Christmas seems to eat my time. The prep, celebration and cleanup always leaves me blinking in surprised confusion at the end of the month. But life continues and I am finally back at my computer, writing words. Phew.
Christmas Lesson Learned: Don’t forget to enjoy the days. They are particularly short in December.
Christmas Corollary: The dog still needs to be walked. But now I’ll be doing it in boots that don’t have holes!
So Christmas is over, but I have one more gift to give away. Want an Advanced Reading Copy of DARKNESS UNDONE? Leave a comment with your Christmas Lesson Learned — or just say hey on any post this week — and you’ll be entered for a chance to win a copy of Sid and Alyce’s story:
Coming March 2012
The war between good and evil has raged for millennia,
and as a powerful new enemy ascends, the Marked Souls
are pushed to the ragged edge…
Sidney Westerbrook has always studied darkness and damnation from a sensible distance. Now, to earn his place as a league Bookkeeper, he must discover why Chicago is such a battleground of soul-linked warriors. But the research becomes personal when he finds himself over his head and under attack — and at the mercy of a waif with demon-lit eyes and a deep yearning in her heart.
Alyce Carver has been alone longer than she can remember, battered by the living nightmares that haunt her city. Cornered by yet another gang of demons, she unwittingly joins forces with a handsome scholar who can salvage her past, and she in turn may be the key to his investigations. But she won’t let him go until he shows her everything she’s been missing.
What begins as an experiment in possession becomes a trial by desire so powerful it threatens both their lives, even as it binds their souls.
x-posted from Lori Devoti’s 30 Days of Vampires
In answer to the age-old question, authors DO have their sources for characters. I get mine through mail order.
I’ve owned the Dark Hero, Vampire Edition 3.2, for a few years now. He came in a box, all minty fresh with that new hero gleam in his eye. Of course there were limitations. Dark wash only. Do not leave in direct sunlight. I had to get a separate unit, the Djinn Slave 4.0, for household use. However, I have to say I have been a fully satisfied customer.
Of course, all equipment subjected to heavy use eventually needs replacement—and believe me, the 3.2 saw a lot of action since he came out of the carton. He’s held up well, but his cape is getting a bit threadbare and the poor dear gets stuck in the brood cycle more often than is good for him. I’ve had to call the manufacturer’s help desk to unlock the “furrowed brow” setting three times now. So, when I was browsing through the catalogue to see if their new line of minotaur was available yet, my attention was caught by a coupon offer for the JingleVamp Special Edition.
I confess, the notion of a vampire with a “ho, ho, ho” plug-in was vaguely disturbing. I wasn’t sure about the reindeer antlers, either, but I figured what the heck. It would make a change from the usual sort of holiday decoration. So, I placed an order.
The thing I didn’t realize was that, unlike the full-priced Dark Heroes, JingleVamp came unassembled and that the instructions were in the non-language universal to children’s toys and cheap furniture. Soon my living room floor was covered in an explosion of sardonic laughs, sultry glances, and sparkly white fangs as I unpacked and sorted and tried to make sense of the diagrams. Fortunately, there was more information enclosed in a separate envelope:
Hello, and welcome to your new JingleVamp! Here are a few pointers to make sure you fully enjoy your new purchase:
1. Note JingleVamp must be rebooted when changing “naughty” and “nice” settings.
2. When recharging, do not plug JingleVamp into the same circuit as your Christmas tree. Spontaneous carolling may result, overriding your Dark Hero’s patented Sinister Velvet® laugh cycle.
3. Exercise caution when using JingleVamp near pine boughs, holly sprigs, pine trees, or other pointy wooden objects.
4. JingleVamp may consume eggnog while set to “party animal.” Caution: Glassware recommended. Paper cartons will leak if bitten.
5. Do not engage JingleVamp in reindeer games without permission of local wildlife authorities.
6. Your JingleVamp will not pull a sleigh, no matter how nicely you ask.
7. Note that Dark Hero units cannot be set to “shopping” mode prior to noon, December 24. “Wrap” mode defaults to intermittent setting. “Write cards” mode is automatically disabled. Contact manufacturer for override instructions.
8. Shopping list plug-in sold separately. Unit is supplied with only “black negligee” and “toaster” options.
9. If you wish to disassemble unit, use stake provided.
Thank you for purchasing the JingleVamp Special Edition! We hope you enjoy your new Dark Hero’s version of Christmas Cheer.
Merry Fangmas to All!
*And by “goose,” I mean “writer.”
Currently working on: Finding the worst white elephant gift
Too much butter and sugar is slowing me down. I only have a few days left to find a white elephant gift for my tribe’s annual Christmas Eve bestest party in the whole wide world. As a stereotypical introvert, I’m not usually into parties, but this party is one of my favorites and I want to do it right. Or wrong, as is the right way to do a white elephant.
A good white elephant is, of course, a bad white elephant. For those who aren’t familiar with the tale, the term white elephant came from a story that Siamese kings gave these giant, hungry, pooping, occasionally rampaging animals as “gifts” to people who really “deserved” them. Horrible art, eye-searingly ugly clothing and excessively large items of any sort are perfect white elephant gifts. But I’m having some trouble this year.
At my day job white elephant exchange, one woman got a can of Spotted Dick. There was much adolescent snickering. (Yeah, my day job isn’t too worried about sexual harassment cases, apparently.) Since I do marketing work in my day job, I was horrified to read the instructions on the can and snapped a picture to share with my Twitter friends.
(What? You don’t follow me on Twitter?! Find me there and say hey, so I can follow you back.)
Now you can snicker at Spotted Dick too. I mean, seriously, who uses “spurting” in ad copy?
I thought about getting a can for my giveaway, but it seemed like a cop-out. I need something worse…
So while I was researching/surfing the web for white elephant ideas, I found porcupines instead. So for your Christmas cookie-eating pleasure, here’s Teddy:
I’ve decided to get a talking porcupine in a Santa hat for my white elephant gift. Perfect, don’t you think?
But if you have another suggestion, please feel free to share and save my friends from either of these terrible gifts.
Christmas always puts me in a nostalgic mood. It’s the one time of year many members of my family travel to one place to get together, so I guess it’s natural that we should remember good times from years past.
In my family, although we mix things up a little every year — we make the same cookies we did when I was little. We even pull out the little yellowed scrap of a home magazine insert that contains the original recipe.
Some memories can’t be replicated. One of my best memories was when we lived in Panama on Fort Clayton Army base, and Santa came riding around into our neighborhoods standing in the back of an military vehicle. He threw candy, and we all ran around barefoot in shorts, grabbing it up.
As for physical items of nostalgia — I think my favorite is the tree my mom puts up every year. It’s not a beautiful or stylish tree like you’d see in a hotel lobby, it’s actually a little kitschy. It’s covered with ornaments from all of our years together. Some ornaments are beautiful. Some can only qualify as sentimental. There are ornaments from the various countries where we’ve lived or traveled.
Do you have a favorite bit of nostalgia you’d like to share with the Silk and Shadows group as we celebrate the holiday season?
I’ve been trying to get into a Christmas mood. Helpfully, the good folks at my day job have been heaping the goody table with all manner of Bad4U food. This is absolutely part of the whole holiday tradition, and I salute their determined efforts to send us all into a sugar coma guaranteed to last until at least March.
It reminds me how much food is part of the festivities. Christmas as a kid used to start in mid-November, when my mom began marinating ingredients in a bath of rum for days and days before baking and wrapping fruitcake. It “aged” in the refrigerator until Twelfth Night, when it would come out of its tin foil coat to fill the room with a sweet, alcoholic scent. Since that was my Dad’s birthday, it doubled as his birthday dessert. I have indelible memories of snow and candied fruit, wrapping paper and pipe tobacco. I also recall if one of those cakes fell on your foot, it could break bones.
Cream 6 ounces of butter (about ¾ cup) of butter with an equal amount of brown sugar until fluffy. Beat in 4 eggs one at a time, then fold in 8 ounces (about a cup) of flour, ¼ cup of ground almonds and a pinch of salt and mix well. Stir in ¾ cup sultana raisins, ½ cup currants, ¼ cup chopped peel, ¼ cup glace cherries (chopped) and the juice and grated rind of an orange and a lemon.
Grease an 8 inch cake tin and line it with baking paper, then spoon in the mixture. Smooth the top and hollow it very slightly, then decorate with whole blanched almonds. Bake for two hours at 300 F and don’t open the oven for the first 30 minutes. Watch toward the end to make sure it isn’t browning too much and cover with foil if necessary. Once completely cool, the cake can be wrapped and stored in an airtight tin for weeks.
Variations of this recipe date back to eighteenth century Scotland.
Currently working on: Last bits of Christmas prep
Last week, my XY who had been gone, out of the country, for two months finally returned home. And there is joy in Whoville!
He was touring Europe — Germany, Switzerland, France, Italy and Poland — as Rainstick Cowbell. Just a boy and a guitar, wandering narrow alleys to dive bars, literally singing for his supper. He hates the dry sound of club recordings, but here’s a glimpse of the life of a touring musician:
He got home just in time for the holiday madness. We went and cut our Christmas tree on Friday. And it was actually a sunny day in the Pacific Northwest!
I have almost completed our transition for regular tree lights to the new LED lights, which are super-trippy when I shone them on the walls. (Uhm, yes, there might have been spiced cider spiked with Hot Monkey Pepper Vodka involved.)
Since we don’t have much room in our house, we get the classic table-top Charlie Brown skinny tree. (Yes, the tree is slightly crooked; again, I blame the vodka cider.)
Having my sweetie home, my holiday madness under control, and a pretty tree decorating my picture window is reason enough for joy. What’s yours? Besides vodka cider
So I missed last week’s post. I was out of words.
National Novel Writing Month (aka NaNoWriMo) ended a week ago. The goal of NaNo is to make 50,000 words during the month. I ended up a few thousand short, clocking in around 47,000, but something in me broke around November 29. I scraped around my brain and couldn’t find one more sentence. Not even a phrase. I hang my head in shame.
On the bright side, I finished the draft I was working on by Sunday night—a whole lot sooner than if I hadn’t been under the sway of November novel madness!
So what did I learn by all this? Practically speaking, it is possible to draft a novel in about six weeks. It’s true that keeping a routine makes the pages add up faster. Also, if you fall behind, it’s really hard to make up the word count.
On a more esoteric level, I found the exercise interesting from a “you don’t know what you can do until you try” sort of way. It also demonstrates what you really find important, because the extras fall off your personal map pretty quickly. Needless to say, my living space looks like Viking raiders invited the Mongol hordes over for a frat party.
Would I recommend it to others? Yes and no. This is a hard enough task that someone has to really want to succeed.
Would I do it again? Absolutely, if the circumstances were right. I got a lot out of it because I had my piece ready to go. If I’d been waffling around without a clear outline, a lot of time would have been wasted writing nonsense. Also, having the external goal of a January 15 submission deadline lifted the daily word count from “nice to do” to “get with it, girl.”
The Summary – NaNo or Not?
- Prose, and lots of it.
- An excuse to avoid awkward social engagements
- You can say you did
- Social alienation
- Brain damage
- Health department quarantines your kitchen
Currently working on: Christmas
Mood: Deck the freakin’ halls
Every single year, Christmas comes around*, and every single year I am shocked. Already?! Seriously? This year is no exception, although I did have the added bonus of turning my work calendar from November to December and being greeted by a 12×12 glossy of a tropical beach at sunset. The lounge chair was empty and calling my name. Thanks, calendar, I needed that little dig.
Every year, I tell myself, “Next year I’ll start earlier.” And every year… “Already?! Seriously?”
Because here’s my dilemma, and I’m sure you all face it too. My choices are:
#1. Sacrifice time earlier to do my holiday tasks. Take my sweet time to do the tasks well and without undue stress.
Or, #2. Hoard my earlier time, let the clock tick down, then do massive freak-out and get holiday tasks done as quickly as possible despite the need for late nights, cursing, and excessive chocolate consumption — because, please, who are we kidding, the last item — and probably the first two too — was going to happen anyway.
Is it my imagination, or does #2 just make more sense?
It all gets done, but in scenario #2, it gets done faster. I think this is why I DON’T get started earlier. I’ve seen what I do to any opening: I expand to fill available space. If I started in September, I’d be obsessed with finding “the right thing.” Instead, in mid-December, I say “Is that the thing? Right” and we’re good to go.
Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I’d be happier (and more in tune with the alleged seasonal moods of peace, love and joy) if I didn’t indulge the freak out. But I’m not even sure I’d know how to start.
Probably with chocolate.
How do you handle the holiday rush? Or are you an expert at the hush? Please share! Anyway, I’m giving us all a Gold Star for trying.
*Apologies — or maybe congratulations — to those who don’t do Christmas. Happy Hanukkah, Merry Kwanzaa, Blessed Solstice, and many butter cookies to you all!
[Note from Jessa: Today we have Genie Gabriel with us. Her new Rock'n'Romance series isn't technically paranormal (although there a reference to angels if you visit her website) she explores some of the dark places where shadows AND silk are found.]
Domestic violence, abusive childhoods, the murder of a spouse, the loss of a child–all these experiences can cast long shadows on the soul. Toss emotional demons into this mix–of guilt, of shame, of thinking you didn’t do enough or should have been able to somehow stop this from happening–and you come up with characters as tortured as those who come toenail to talon with fantasy beasts.
I blame twenty years of exposure to social workers for the trauma, drama, and hope in my stories. I worked at a social services agency when the shrouds of secrecy around the ugly realities of humanity were being torn down. Then came the process of guiding damaged young souls to become successful, healthy adults.
Yes, I know there are people who shouldn’t be social workers, and I’ve seen cases where the rebuilding stage didn’t work out so well. However, I’ve also seen incredibly committed, caring and courageous social workers who have the patience and intestinal fortitude to bring together a team to shape miracles from the muck of the worst of abuse.
I was amazed, a bit disbelieving, and fascinated. And I had an endless supply of ideas for my stories, starting with my Rock’n'Romance trilogy–just re-issued from Rogue Phoenix Press.
THE ROCK STAR grew up without much direction or love. In his own words, “My old man took off when I was five or six, and not long after that my mother had a nervous breakdown. Then I bounced in and out of foster homes. In my teens, I discovered music…” and the heady adoration of fans. Then came the crash of discovering a daughter with a terminal illness, whose death plunged him into a dark abyss of grief.
The second book of the series begins with a child psychiatrist helping kids heal from abuse, who becomes caught in the viciously ironic situation of domestic violence. A terrified flight to save her children lands her under the protection of THE BODYGUARD, ripping open Mitch’s emotional wounds… “[Julia] turned to say something to the child, revealing the jagged purple bruise smeared across the ivory skin of her cheek. Memories plowed into Mitch so hard his knees almost buckled. The sound of shots. A scream. A frantic ride in the ambulance and a flat line on the heart monitor. Squeezing his eyes closed, Mitch gulped a deep draught of air, battling the memories as valiantly as [his wife] had once fought to save women battered by those who claimed to love them…”
Zach started out as the antagonist in the first book of the Rock’n'Romance series, but partially redeemed himself. In the third book of the trilogy, THE LEADER OF THE BAND, he faces the rest of his journey to redemption and to winning the woman he has loved since they were both teenagers. However, they have been dancing around each other for so long with excuses why their lives won’t mesh, it takes a life-or-death situation to help them see the truth…”Time ceased to exist as Zach helplessly watched Lauren crumple on the porch. Gravity sucked at his feet, trying to hold him in place while he ran as fast as he could. Ka-thump, ka-thump, ka-thump. His heart thundered in his ears, terror oozing through his body like the blood seeping down Lauren’s face.”
Lest you think my stories sound totally sadistic, please know I sprinkle touches of humor and hope among the angst while my characters struggle toward happily-ever-after endings.
The heroine in THE ROCK STAR has a dog who makes her coffee in the morning, and a cadre of young music therapy patients who fill the walls of her house with drawings of their dreams. The twins in THE BODYGUARD firmly believe in angels–in fact, they think Mitch is the answer to their wish for an angel for their mom. And THE LEADER OF THE BAND, Zach, has outfitted a “Chamber of Love” in his house to exude a playboy image, complete with heart-shaped, vibrating bed.
Overcoming shadows on the soul with courage, determination, foot-dragging, humor–there are many paths to a brighter future. I love exploring these paths in my stories and, beginning in March 2012, my new LEGACY series will introduce a family of eight adopted siblings who make their own journeys. As they uncover secrets that lead to the truth that killed their adoptive father, the action, romance and family drama heat up.
Thank you so much to the ladies of Silk and Shadows for giving me a chance to talk about the stories I love to write!
Who is your favorite rock star? Leave a comment
for a chance to win a free ebook from Rogue Phoenix Press!
To learn more about Genie Gabriel, visit her website or the Rock and Romance page: For years I’ve been fascinated by the puzzle of why some people collapse under life’s traumas and others emerge triumphantly stronger. These triumphs of the human spirit over the ugliest of adversities became the basis for my stories. Yet my dramatic stories have always contained touches of humor, and sometimes I have great fun writing romantic comedy novellas. However, in all my stories, my passion for writing romance is an outlet for the powerful messages that people can overcome great difficulties, and true love can turn life’s heartaches into happily ever after.