Monday, December 28, 2009

Little CJ and I are at The Book Smugglers + a challenge

Hey everybody! I hope you had a great, 10 days. I'm back from my Christmas vacation just in time to join The Book Smugglers for Smugglivus (my post will be up later today, but there are great book recommendations, recaps and contests there right now).
*[Update: post now up!]

For my post, Little CJ* and I shall discuss:
  • Some of my fave reads of the year (or at least the ones that struck my fancy as I was writing the post).
  • The books I'm most looking forward to for 2010 (see above).
  • Predictions for the coming year about fashion, social media, author behavior, Anita Blake, Phury, and more!
The big new challenge I'm joining
I've never done a challenge before - I always think, why would I want a voluntary, deadline-oriented obligation to take over my free time? This blog already fulfills that role. But this challenge is so free and easy I couldn't pass it up!

It's Orannia's Big Book Challenge, where you read a doorstopper of a book you've been meaning to read, but haven't, at some point in the new year. Here are the rules, as set forth by Orannia (of Walkabout):
1) Read a big book, and by a big book I mean a book with more than 500 pages, before the end of 2010.

2) A review is not required (although I'm going to attempt a post detailing my thoughts on the book, or the reasons why I didn't finish it *grin*).

3) The big book can be from
any fiction genre (e.g. fantasy, romance, science fiction). It can even be non-fiction.4) No penalties if the book isn't read by the end of 2010 (because this is meant to be fun).

5) The book can be changed at any time! (Flexibility is important IMO :)
I'm going to read Dune finally, a book I've always wanted to read. I may go for the whole 5 or 6 that Frank Herbert wrote. Orannia will be reading one of my old faves, Kushiel's Dart! I also see other Kushiel books, as well as In the Name of the Wind by Rothfuss, Hobb's Ship of Destiny, and Harry Potter. Go see what the others are reading and sign up.

*Little CJ is my childhood portrait painted by an elderly aunt. She hangs on my office wall instead of in her rightful place--centered over the fireplace mantel in the living room--because Mr. Crane thinks she's creepy and that her eyes follow him around.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Gifts you should NOT get for werewolves this holiday season

It is not easy to buy gifts for paranormals - especially werewolves. While they are typically polite about accepting items they don't like, quietly returning them when you're not around, some gifts that can upset them greatly, and should be avoided at all costs. Hopefully, this list will help.

Do NOT give your werewolf friends and family the following gifts:

1. Any chia pet in the shape of a canine. Deeply offensive to the werewolf psyche.

2. A Friendship bracelet that you worked really hard on, that the werewolf must never take off, and you'll be really mad if they lose it. Because they will!


3. The complete 5-volume Dog Whisperer DVD set featuring Cesar Millan. A werewolf will instantly rip it apart.

4. Nature's Gift Aromatherapy patchouli-scented bliss candles.

5. Actually, any heavily scented products are poor gift choices for werewolves.

6. Ten-hour video set of the historic Apollo 11 Lunar Landing. This type of close-up non-stop full moon footage can be overstimulating to werewolves, and lead to destruction of furnishings and upholstery and also set off howling that can result in noise complaints from the neighbors.

7. Road Runner vs. Wiley Coyote cartoon DVD set. (Not even as a joke, unless you hated your TV set anyway.)

8. Joy of yodelling CD. (Gets werewolves riled up, not in a good way.)

9. A surprise pre-paid trip to the dentist to get all cavities filled with silver fillings.

10. The clapper, or worse, if you helpfully change all their lights over to operation by the clapper. This is not something that the werewolf in your life will find at all helpful .

11. Rogaine.

12. The Slanket. While this gift may be exciting and attractive to your comfort-loving werewolf friend, it is actually very restrictive, and when it comes to shifting form unexpectedly, BAD THINGS WILL HAPPEN.

. The Miau Kitty Christmas Carol album: definitely NOT a recommended buy for werewolves this holiday season.

Do not under ANY circumstances purchase this music CD for a werewolf.

Later this week: What not to get a vampire for Christmas.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

3 short Monday items

#1 Winner of the Santa Bag contest: Hilcia! Yay! I'll email you soon.

#2 Mr. Crane and I went to A Klingon Christmas Carol and it was so fabulous! It's an adaptation of the Dickens take done entirely in tlhIngan Hol (the Klingon Language) with English supertitles - a "classic tale of ghosts and redemption was adapted to reflect the Warrior Code of Honor."

I was really impressed by how the Dickens tale translates to another culture, and works across values. The play was funny and touching, and super clever with the trekkie references and diction - full of just the kinds of stuff Klingons would say, and it didn't take itself too seriously. The Klingons were fab actors, and there was a wonderful Vulcan narrator (who incidentally, made me realize that Obama is a bit Vulcan-like, and I mean that in the best way). And, in parts the play was totally touching; in fact, a tear came to my eye when the ghost of Christmas future showed little Tim Tom's grieving mother holding his little battle weapon. Actually, I'm not being funny. Read more on my post here. Photo courtesy of Commedia Beauregard.

#3 My website is done! Well, actually, I'm still tweaking and adding to it - every day I think of three new things to do to it. But that will probably be the case until a sunspot lays waste to the electrical power grid or whatever it is that's supposed to happen. It's done enough.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Random updates & question of the day: Regarding Roarke

Writerly update
Okay thanks for all the wonderful, thoughtful feedback on my last post! I felt a lot better after writing that, and even more so getting words of wisdom and such kindness.

I was thinking today how in my day job, I'm constantly cranking out creative ideas to actual harsh feedback, and I either use it to make my stuff better, or I ignore it, but it never bothers me. Clearly I need to put my fiction writer hat on that mode. Also, today I got a wonderful blurb from a writer I greatly admire. Oh, I was so thankful. However, Oblio is still a softness loser.

Contest Reminders
Demon Sheep + special mystery books!
What would you do if you had your own demon sheep? What kind of demon sheep would he be? What would you name him? Tell Katibabs in 100 words here and you could win! Deadline: Sunday the 13th.

The Save Amanda Feral ARC-blowout!
Kill two zombies with one stone: order a raunchy and twisted zombie adventure book, wittily signed by the maestro himself (the perfect gift for "those most likely to upset people at the holiday dinner table with a shocking joke") by the 11th for Xmas delivery and you're 80% of the way entered. There are other options, too. See directions here or here. Deadline: Monday the 14th.

Win a Santa bag of chocolate treats!
You have only until tomorrow, 6 pm Thursday, to enter to win chocolate covered rice krispie bars in honor of the hot holiday paranormal romance, Sweet Inspirations. Read all about it here.

Question of the day:
I'm only in the early stages of my In Death addiction process - one read, one on the TBR for ages. But I was wondering if Roarke is at all inspired by Howard Roark in Fountainhead (a book I actually DNFed, but it is an important and influential book for a number of people I like and respect, including my mom.)

Anyway, Fountainhead Roark is all about individualism and forging his own code. Eve's Roarke does seem to have his own code, too, and he is indeed successful and seems full of integrity. Is this something everybody knows and has discussed extensively? Oh well, color me late to the party!
  • Is this a known thing that one Roark(e) is patterned on the other?
  • Does Nora Roberts frequently give her characters names that have meaning? Names that relate to their character? If that's a Roberts habit, I think it would be a strong indication that Roarke was inspired by Roark.
  • How about this theory: Ayn Rand time travelled forward to the 1990's, using that Stonehenge thing from Outlander, read some In Death books, then returned to her era, and based Howard Roark on Eve's Roarke.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

A dark day in the Crane household! contest results and blurb trauma

It turns out Oblio was NOT the softest kitteh ever! Read the photo essay of Kitty Softness Smackdown Rumble here at Stumbling over Chaos. Also, stuff about the contest, in reverse order, can be found in posts from all last week here.

I feel a bit like a traitor, as one of the judges. However, Oblio has been very good about it.

In other news
My book was sent out for blurbs to various authors, and I just got my first response, via my agent, where an author didn't like it enough to blurb it. I totally respect this author saying that, because I would never want her to put her name on it if she didn't feel it was her cup of tea, and also, she doesn't even know me, and she took time out of her busy schedule to give it a whirl, for which I'm hugely grateful. I know I would feel resentful if I was expected to favorably blurb a book I didn't love.

But of course, it freaks me out, because it's easy to get into slippery slope thinking, like, what if everybody hates it?!?!

Then I start thinking, why? And I scan my agent's email for clues. Suddenly there is all sorts of dark significance in my agent's phraseology: "was not her cup of tea." Is it possible my agent is shielding me from some commentary she feels I cannot handle? Why not repeat this person's communication to me verbatim?

Naturally, as author, I have a long and startlingly elaborate list of possibilities why people might not enjoy my book, or why some would even come to actively dislike, or possibly hate it! Here in my office, I am able to imagine baroque worlds of doom and gloom that involve my book crashing and burning, and me a bitter failure. A husk of a woman. OMG, I was writing this sort of putting a humorous spin on it, but now I'm getting verklempt.

Website: Up so so soon! By the end of the week. I'm psyched about my progress, slow as it is.

**PS** Okay, I'm really being dramatic, I can see.
These authorly ups and downs just surprise me, and I think they're a little bit funny, (i.e., me being a freak). Because, of course some readers will like my book, others won't. Just like with every other book in the world. In the end, I am SO happy to have it being published, and it really is quite exciting! Yet intense!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Author Interview: Penny Watson! With fun insights and a chocolate prize!

I'm getting in the Christmas spirit this year, first with the Klingon Christmas Carol (this Sunday!) and now, reading Penny Watson's delightful paranormal, Sweet Inspiration, (FTC: given to me by Penny!) the first in a series about Santa's five hunky sons finding love in the world of Sudlanders (that's what the North Pole people call us).

Penny's North Pole is an imaginative world full of elves with attitude, workplace issues and powerful magic where Christmas is a serious family business. It's also quite hot. Translation: This sexy re-thinking of the whole Santa myth will likely NOT be made into a claymation cartoon for the entire family.
The blurb:

What if the legend of Santa Claus and the North Pole is in fact, true? What if Santa has five big strapping sons who help him run his empire? Five single, sexy sons looking for romance...
Nicholas Klaus is a master pastry chef, a strict disciplinarian, and the eldest son of the legendary Santa Claus. One look at café owner Lucy Brewster sends him into an unexpected tailspin of lusty desires. When Lucy is injured, Nicholas makes a decision that catapults both of their lives into turmoil...
Lucy Brewster, the free-spirited proprietor of Sweet Inspiration, has a flair for concocting sugary confections but no time for adventure. She gets more than she bargained for when she awakens in the North Pole...rambunctious elves, a fitness-obsessed Santa, and the man of her dreams. Does she have what it takes to become the next Mrs. Klaus?
Carolyn Crane: So Penny, one of the things I love about Sweet Inspiration is the way the baking styles characterize these two main players. Both Nicholas and Lucy are master bakers/chefs, but Nicholas follows recipes to the letter, whereas Lucy doesn't measure things, and lets inspiration take her if she feels like adding different ingredients. In fact, there's a delightful scene where Nicholas is horrified to see her winging it in the kitchen. Fess up: do YOU follow recipes to the letter? Are you more of a Nicholas or a Lucy in the kitchen?

Penny Watson: I am totally a Lucy! In fact, it's a serious bone of contention in our household, because my husband (who was a Chemistry major in college!) is adamant about following recipes exactly. (He gets nervous when I start pouring ingredients into the bowl without measuring...hee hee....guess where I got my "inspiration" for Nicholas?).

Carolyn: I read somewhere that you're more of a pantser as a novelist than a plotter (somebody who writes what comes to mind instead of creating and following an outline). So, no following recipes, no following outlines. Do you think there's a correlation here? Do you think writing is a little like baking? With the pantser approach to writing and baking, don't you ever worry, what if it doesn't come out right?

Penny: This is a great question, Carolyn. There is definitely a correlation! I am a pantser, and that's one of the things I loved about writing Sweet Inspiration. I never knew what was going to happen in my story until I started writing it. Every chapter was a new adventure. Unfortunately, the risk of "messing up the recipe" is also very real. I tried to write a werewolf romance novel several years back, and I basically wrote myself into a corner. Now, I have a vague idea about the story (scenes that pop up in my head!), and I write a simple outline before each scene, so I remember what I need to accomplish. It's way too easy to start writing about those naughty elves and forget the main storyline!

And yes, I think writing is a lot like baking. You throw together certain ingredients, but you're never sure what the end result is going to be!

Carolyn: I love that this is considered a paranormal, but it's not about werewolves or vampires or whatever, it's about the North Pole, and that realm of magic. In more standard paranormals, you end up having some of the vampires and werewolves turning out to be good, as if authors are trying to bring a light and good side to scary monsters. You've done the reverse - you've taken the North Pole, which most people see as a lot of happy elves, and added a bit a complexity and strife to the magic associated with it--and the personalities, too. Have you always been interested in this myth? Can you talk about how your ideas of it evolved?

Penny: I love taking a myth and giving it a new twist. That's one of the reasons I enjoy "light" paranormal...I think adding humor into a legend that is considered dark and dangerous is a fresh new way to approach the genre. (I LOVE the film Shaun of the is brilliant! A hilarious take on the classic zombie tale). As soon as I started writing about the North Pole, I knew I had to give it a fresh spin. Everyone expects a plump, jolly Santa and a bunch of perky elves. Creating a new vision of the North Pole added something new and exciting into the story. I actually researched the legend of St. Nicholas, which varies from country to country, but in the end, I just decided to make up my own!

Carolyn: Maybe this is too much of a shop question, but I always think it's ballsy to write Christmas books, because they have such a short shelf life. At least in my mind, I'd think, oh, nobody reads Christmas books in January. But then again, it's super topical - most people are thinking about some sort of holiday, at least in the West, during December. Did you worry about writing a Christmas book?

Penny: Here's the thing. I had a story in my head, and I wrote it down. I wasn't thinking about the fact that December is the worst month for romance sales, that holiday stories have a short shelf-life, that 55,000-word manuscripts are too short for traditional publishers. Sweet Inspiration was totally story-driven, not market-driven. I got my butt kicked at a pitch session, where I was lectured by an agent about why this story was basically un-publishable. I was not deterred. I really liked the concept for the story, and I personally love holiday romance novels, so I just kept querying until I found the right home for this book. Because it's turning into a series about the five brothers, it will actually have a bit more longevity than a typical holiday romance. However, I am a firm believer in a writer being true to herself, and not writing to "please" the market.

Carolyn: Will you have a book about each Klaus brother come out every year for the next five years? And who's up next?

Penny: Yep, all five brothers (Nicholas, Sven, Gregor, Wolfgang, and Oskar Klaus) will have a book. Next up is Oskar, the youngest brother, who is a punky, carefree snowboarder. His story is Sweet Magik -- I'm hoping it will be out for Christmas of 2010. I'm aiming to make this book a bit longer so I have more room for character development, as well as a secondary story line about this awesome elf named Ingo!
Look! Penny has provided us with a handy key to the hunky Santa sons:
  • Nicholas Klaus- highly disciplined master pastry chef and owner of Klaus Kuche, specialty Christmas cookies; loves to travel the world sampling culinary delights
  • Sven Klaus--tree-hugging, birkenstock-wearing hippy/environmentalist and lead toy designer and wood-worker in the North Pole
  • Gregor- GQ-dressing, gourmet-coffee drinking financial guru of Klaus Enterprises, lives in Manhattan
  • Wolfgang-- head of charitable donations for Klaus Enterprises and general do-gooder; spends a lot of time in pediatric hospitals and 3rd world countries
  • Oskar--green-haired punk snowboarding youngest brother; Bad-Boy; Director of Elfin Resources
In honor of our sweets-loving hero and heroine, Penny is giving away a Santa bag of chocolate covered Rice Krispie treats! To be eligible to win, let us know in the comments which of Santa's sons you'd most like to take a sleigh ride with - by 6pm CST Thursday the 10th. And be sure to leave your email address if it's not attainable from your profile.
Penny: Thanks so much for having me today, Carolyn. I hope you have a great holiday!
Carolyn: You too, Penny, and thanks so much for stopping by!
More info about Sweet Inspiration and an excerpt here.
Buy the ebook from Wild Rose Press.
~ Kitty Rumble results tomorrow!~

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Fun links, killer gift idea, upcoming items, one last taunt

Adopt your own demon sheep: the contest!

Win internetz fame, your own demon sheep, and fabulous mystery books at Babbling About Books! All you have to do:

In 100 words, tell us what you would do if you had your own demon sheep. What type of demon sheep would you have and most importantly, what would his or her name be?

And guess who is one of the judges? Little CJ!!! The contest ends Sunday the 13th.

A fun Xmas gift for your snarky pals that will make you seem super wonderful and clever:
I just stumbled across this deal from Mark Henry, one of the funniest UF writers working today: you can get a signed and personalized copy of one of his Amanda Feral zombie books in time for Christmas (free shipping if you order it by Friday the 11th). These entertaining and startling (in a good, OMG, WTF, sort of way way) books work for both men or women.

To snag one: you order the book from the Seattle University Bookstore, include this secret message on the payment in the comments section: "Please send me a personalized signed copy (or copies). Contact Duane Wilkins and author for arrangements" along with info on who it's for, and Mark Henry himself will write something surprisingly witty or even dirty in the book, and get it to you.

Book #1 Happy Hour of the Damned, is a good place to start, though book #2, Road Trip of the Living Dead, which I'm currently reading and will post about one of these days, also kicks ass.

Bonus: If you do this and one other of the things listed here before the 14th, you could win an ARC of the hotly anticipated Battle of the Network Zombies plus mystery surprise extras in his wacky SAVE AMANDA FERAL contest.

Smugglivus is on, dudes!
Are you catching this? This is one of my favorite, most action-packed events of the year. Smugglivus is a month-long celebration in which the Book Smugglers invite their favorite authors and bloggers to post about their favorite books of the year, what they’re looking forward to in 2010, and what projects they have on the horizon. TONS of giveaways here, great interviews, big names.

And of course, they end the celebration with the freaky "official rites" – Airing of Grievances, Feats of Strength, and their very own Best of lists for the year, all culminating in our second year blogoversary.

Kitty Softness Smackdown Rumble:
You have mere HOURS left to place your bets and win a book.

More here. Or here. Or here. Or here. Or just scroll down.

Chocolate and a chat:
Stop by tomorrow for my interview with Penny Watson, author of Sweet Inspirations!

We'll be talking baking, writing, and she's giving away a Santa bag of white and milk-chocolate covered rice crispie treats! Yum.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Random items: Klingon Christmas Carol, rumble update, etc.

Mr. Crane and I are not big Christmas festivity goers, but that's changing this year! We are extremely psyched to be attending a performance of A Klingon Christmas Carol at Mixed Blood Theater, here in Minneapolis next Sunday.

The play is done entirely in tlhIngan Hol (the Klingon Language, dudes!) with English supertitles. This "classic tale of ghosts and redemption was adapted to reflect the Warrior Code of Honor." Are you jealous or what?

Performance blurb:

Scrooge has no honor, nor any courage. Can three ghosts help him to become the true warrior he ought to be in time to save Tiny Tim from a horrible fate? Performed in the Original Klingon with English Supertitles, and narrative analysis from The Vulcan Institute of Cultural Anthropology.

If you're lucky enough to live in the area, tickets are still available. A Klingon Christmas Carol is a co-production of Commedia Beauregard and the IKV RakeHell of the Klingon Assault Group.Written & Translated by Doqtuj vestai-ruStaj, Q'DroS vestai-Kiln, Qe'pa sutai-Qul, 
Qob zantai-Hurric, and qurgh sutai-lungqIj 
(Sasha Walloch, Christopher O. Kidder, Laura Thurston, Bill Hedrick, and Chris Lipscombe. Photos courtesy of Commedia Beauregard.

On the writing front

Well, work continues on my site. Also, I turned in book two revisions to my agent, and I am so excited about it! I think it is so amazing and the best thing I ever wrote. That, of course, will change when the inevitable "This book is the shittiest piece of crap in the world" period begins. Anyway, now I have to think of book 3. I have only the barest idea for it, though certain things are slated to happen.

The other day I went running and I got all these ideas on how to work the plot, and I wrote them down (I've learned to bring pen and paper on runs) but now I can't find the little scrap of paper. Argh!! So, that's what I'm doing after I put up this entry. I hope to find the scrap, and if not, I'll work on simultaneously convincing myself the ideas weren't that good and that they'll surely come to me later.

Kitty Softness Smackdown Rumble! Still time to place your bets!

TIME: Sunday December 6th, in the afternoon
PLACE: Our neighborhood in Minneapolis
MAIN EVENT: Chris from Stumbling Over Chaos and I will walk the six blocks back and forth between our homes petting the cats to decide, once and for all, whether Mayhem (Chris's cat) or Oblio (pictured) is the softest cat EVER. After that, we will go shopping at Uncle Hugo's Science Fiction bookstore, as that is a thing we like to do.

More on the rumble: Day 1, Day 2, Day 3 and Oblio's competition. There's still time to place your bets for a chance to win a book!

How to bet
1. Leave a comment here or at Stumbling Over Chaos by 10 am CST, December 6 and choose May (Chris's cat), Oblio, or a draw.
2. Give the name of a mass market paperback you want us to lovingly buy for you (mystery, scifi, fantasy, urban fantasy, or paranormal romance) that's likely available at Uncle Hugo's Science Fiction Bookstore or Uncle Edgar's Mystery Bookstore. (They have pretty much everything current, and a huge used section, so odds are good they'll have what you want. You can poke around their site to check. If there's a title you've been desperately seeking but don't see on their site, list it first and then list a second title, just in case.)
3. Leave your email address if it's not gettable from your profile.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Kitty Softness Smackdown Update!

Extreme measures at Stumbling Over Chaos do not go unanswered.

Learn more and place your bets Here and Here.

Has my blog totally devolved? No, I promise it hasn't! My free time is currently being consumed by my under-construction website. (It's totally not ready--don't you dare look if you have the address!!)

I have to rearrange a bunch of stuff, add a bunch of stuff, and at the same time, I'm switching hosts due to freakishly long load time issues. I honestly thought I'd have it done in one afternoon...that was back on November 10th!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Trailer Tuesday - Succubi fun! + smackdown update

Hey, Happy Trailer Tuesday. This week I've really been enjoying the trailer for Gentlemen Prefer Succubi by author Jill Myles (the book comes out December 29th).

The diary concept here appeals to my natural in-born nosiness (it's set up as the heroine's diary, humorously outlining the events of the book). I love how the text and the pictures (drawn by Myles's husband) work together, and generally, just the clever attitude of this trailer.

I'm totally going to read this book. Book two, Succubi Like it Hot, comes out January 19th. Whoa! The shotgun release! Excerpts, extras and goodies on the series here.

Trailer Tuesday is hosted by Anastasia over at Birdbrain(ed) book blog. Does she have her trailer up yet? No! We'll check back later.

Kitty softness smackdown rumble news:
Tensions heat up between the kitties!

Read all about it here. (Or see the post below.) You have until Sunday to place your bet and win a book, but please, follow the directions. And you can't vote for your own cat.

Memo to Rfp: Does Oblio need to come over there and scrub your brain out with his soapy little paws?