Author Holiday Giveaway Extravaganza

christmastreesI don’t know whether its because the Christmas season has become too simple and easy (f0r me, anyhow) over the years, but I decided to shake it up by organizing an author holiday giveaway extravaganza virtual Facebook party.

What did I just write?

In this crazy year of debut author activities, I have become somewhat comfortable with online parties and chats. It’s kind of fun. So, readers, if you are around today, please join us!

Lots of authors! Lots of fun and literary giveaways! Lots of chat! Just leave comments to win. You can find the party at:

https://www.facebook.com/events/960747113953433/?ref=3&ref_newsfeed_story_type=regular&source=1

I go on at 11:20 a.m. Pacific standard time, and I’ll be giving away very pretty Irish ornaments!

Mmm, Cookie! A Virtual Holiday Cookie Exchange

VirtualCookie-Exchange-Blog-Hop-1Big thanks to Susan Spann, author of the fabulous Shinobi mystery series, for inviting me to participate in this holiday blog hop — a virtual cookie exchange! Last week she got my inner Cookie Monster going with a gingerbread recipe.

And so, here I am, having to cheat because I don’t bake. Yeah, I know. So why did I volunteer for this blog hop, you ask? Just cuz. You know, it’s fun to participate. I thought I had a recipe for jam shortbread that my mom made each year. This was my mom’s one bonafide sweet recipe. Everything else she baked was full of wheat germ, whole wheat flour, brown sugar instead of white sugar … You get it. She made peanut butter cookies and oatmeal cookies. That was about it.

Sigh … Growing up, I so wished I came from a house filled with Wonder Bread sandwiches and Bisquick pancakes and Betty Crocker cookies.

Anyhow, I don’t have the jam shortbread recipe, alas. What I do have is a memory of my favorite holiday baked treat — Betty Crocker Grasshopper Bars! These are EXACTLY the kind of sweets my mom didn’t bake. Though not strictly Christmas, they are green because of the mint frosting and you can decorate them any way you’d like. Plus, looking at the recipe, I see they’re easy. (I could even make them!)

I learned about grasshopper bars from my childhood best friend, Kathy, who was and still is a kitchen goddess. Every year, she’d whip them up for her parents’ Christmas Eve party. She’d arrange a plate of them on the kiddy food table in the den while our parents drank a little too much in the formal living room, which was usually off limits to us kids. Me, I’d retreat back to the kiddy food table and pick off the grasshopper bars one by one. They just seemed so decadent. Not a speck of whole wheat or wheat germ in those suckers!

So, in honor of kids everywhere who grew up in granola households, I copy (yeah, this is where I’m cheating) the Betty Crocker Grasshopper Bar recipe straight off their website. (Here’s the link too.)

Inner Cookie Monster says "Mmm, cookie!"

Inner Cookie Monster says “Mmm, cookie!”

Betty Crocker Grasshopper Bars

Ingredients

Bars:

1 pouch (1 lb 1.5 oz) Betty Crocker™ double chocolate chunk cookie mix
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons water
1 egg

Frosting:

3 cups powdered sugar
1 package (3 oz) cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup butter, softened
2 tablespoons milk
1/4 teaspoon mint extract
3 to 4 drops green food color

Glaze:

1 oz unsweetened baking chocolate
1 tablespoon butter
Directions
  • 1 Heat oven to 350°F. Spray bottom of 13×9-inch pan with cooking spray.
  • 2 In large bowl, stir all Bar ingredients until soft dough forms. Press into pan; bake 15 minutes. Cool about 10 minutes.
  • 3 In large bowl, stir all Frosting ingredients until smooth. Spread over bars.
  • 4 In small microwavable bowl, microwave all Glaze ingredients on High 30 seconds; stir until smooth. Drizzle over frosting. Refrigerate 30 minutes or until set. For bars, cut into 9 rows by 4 rows. Store covered in refrigerator.

And if YOU have a great cookie recipe, TAG! You’re it too! (Come back and link your cookie post in the comments here, and I’ll add you into this post.)

My First Library Talk

The day after the library talk, I saw this rainbow out my hotel window.

The day after the library talk, I saw this rainbow outside my hotel window.

Whitney, come on down! In a random draw, you won my Spooktacular blog hop giveaway from last week! Thanks for participating everyone!

Last Thursday I gave my first library talk. In fact, it was my first talk EVER. I mean ever. Seriously, how I landed as an experienced adult (which is to say not a young adult) without having to give a presentation, I don’t know. Just lucked out, I guess.

Actually, no. It wasn’t luck. It was by design. I’d avoided public speaking my whole life. But then, somewhere along the way, I decided that I wanted readers for my novels, which meant becoming a more public person. It meant, in other words, public speaking. I could dream of being a Salinger, but the reality is that these days, I don’t think Salinger could get away with being Salinger. Unfortunately, the public life is part of the gig.

For years, I knew that someday I’d suck it up, pull on my big-girl undies, and public speak. That was a big “someday.” I knew I must super-fantastically-no-doubt-about-it love fiction if I was willing to someday face my glossophobia (fear of public speaking).

This past March “someday” became “now,” and the terror began. I’ll always remember 2014 as the year KILMOON was published and the year that terrified me. From readings to panels to my launch party … and last Thursday, to a library talk. I had to talk for a minimum of 30 minutes ABOUT MYSELF. I couldn’t hide behind answering the questions asked or reading from KILMOON.

I had to prepare, which meant brainstorming what I could say about myself that might interest readers. The obvious topics were my journey to publication and the inspirations for KILMOON. I wrote and rewrote index cards. Every time I drove, I spoke my talk out loud to myself. By the time I arrived at Driftwood Public Library, Lincoln City, Oregon, I didn’t need my notes anymore.

Actually, that’s a lie. I went blank for a second as I began my talk, started rambling, forgot where I was. So I’m glad I had my notes. Whew! Once I got going I was fine.

And you know what? It really was fine. I’m proud myself. I had fun. I sold some books, met great people, and got to stay over on the beautiful Oregon coast.

As a 20-something I cared too much about everything, including what people thought about me as a person, about me as an attractive (or not, since it’s subjective) woman, about everything including being as perfect as possible. These days I don’t give a damn the way I used to. It’s not that I showed up at the library all cocky. I was still me, after all–prone to worry and performance anxiety. The difference is that the jitters didn’t paralyze me like they would have in the past. Why? Because, ultimately, I knew that in the end it didn’t matter what people thought of me or how I goofed up.

In other words, I’m much more comfortable being myself than I used to be. What a wondrous thing to learn about myself! I may never be truly comfortable standing before a crowd, but I feel liberated that I can manage the terror. (Which isn’t terror anymore–more like run-of-the-mill nerves. What a blessing that is too!)

So, are you scared of public speaking? What do you do to combat your nerves?

Spooktacular Blog Hop Giveaway (Lots of Giveaways!)

spooktacular_blog_hopHalloween’s here, and I’m participating in a spooktacular blog hop-athon giveaway with my crew of fantabulous writer friends. We call ourselves the “Author Co-op,” and we support each other on our publishing/writing journeys.

We hope you’ll hop along and leave comments on all our posts to enter our giveaways. Please see the bottom of this post for links to the other blog posts. I’m giving away a signed copy of KILMOON and a wee Irish gift.

In honor of the season, most of us will be providing suspenseful or mysterious or spooky or atmospheric excerpts from our works in progress or upcoming novels. But there are no hard-and-fast rules. We’re having fun!

Leave comments by the end-of-day, Halloween, to enter the giveaways.

Here’s an excerpt from my work-in-progress, the second County Clare mystery, GREY MAN. It’s the first page–very drafty! Actually, I could use some feedback. Does something like this work as an entree to a novel?

There was always a voice within the fog. From ancient times its wet hiss could cajole, could fool an innocent into the Grey Man’s grasp. The Grey Man brought death, everyone knew that. Everyone had always known what haunted the fogs that rolled in off the Atlantic.

So it went without saying that on a Wednesday afternoon, mid-September, locals marked the day Grey Man spread its moist shroud over sheep, rock walls, and pocked limestone near Lisfenora village. Local lore about the dark faerie that oozed its way onto land when the fog rolled in sent children to their ma’s’ beds in fright for their lives. In the fogs that lay thick over the land anyone might catch a glimpse of a figure with cloak made of swirling mists. It might arrive any time to cling to the land with sinister tendrils, waiting for the right moment to snatch an innocent soul into its gloom.

Later, the most superstitious of the locals claimed to know their uneasiness for more than a tingle along their spines and a few hairs raised on their necks.

And later still, all of the locals would ponder the grey man within their midst.

If you’re new to me and my novels, and curious about my debut novel, KILMOON, please click on the link in the sidebar for more information.

Please hop along to the following spooktacular blog hop posts (in no particular order):

Heather Webb http://www.heatherwebbauthor.com/2014/10/30/spooktacular-book-hop-prizes-galore/ : a signed copy of either BECOMING JOSEPHINE or an arc of RODIN’S LOVER and a holiday pack of chocolate goodies

Anna Lee Huber http://www.annaleehuber.com/blog_entry.php?id=260 : audiobooks for Lady Darby mysteries 1 through 3

Alexandra Hughes http://www.ahugheswriter.com/spooky-halloween-blog-hop.html : an audiobook or an early copy of VACANT

Jennifer Delamere http://jenniferdelamere.com/news/2014/10/30/spooktacular-blog-hopa-deleted-scene-from-an-heiress-at-heart/ : advanced copy of A BRIDE FOR THE SEASON

Kerry Schafer http://www.kerryschafer.com/2014/10/29/spooktacular-blog-hop-and-giveaway/ : signed copy of WAKEWORLD

Stacey Lee http://www.staceyhlee.com/spooktacular-blog-hop-from-under-a-painted-sky/ : advanced copy of UNDER A PAINTED SKY

Janet Butler Taylor  http://janetbtaylor.com/spooktacular-blog-hop-prizes-galore/ : $15 Amazon gift cards and chocolate goodies

Hazel Gaynor http://www.hazelgaynor.com/blog/spooktacular-halloween-blog-hop-giveaway/ :  signed ARC of A MEMORY OF VIOLETS and a signed book jacket of THE GIRL WHO CAME HOME

Halloween

High Probability Random Encounters at Bouchercon

I'll be bringing KILMOON mints to Bouchercon. Aren't they cute?

I’ll be bringing KILMOON mints to Bouchercon. Aren’t they cute?

Or, as I like to call it, the Cheers factor. Remember the 1980s sitcom about a bar named Cheers and its crew of quirky characters? Remember how Norm would stroll in and everyone would say, NOOOORMMM, and he’d always have a great one-liner such as:

Woody: “How’s it going, Mr. Peterson?”
Norm: “It’s a dog eat dog world, Woody, and I’m wearing Milk Bone underwear.”

High probability random encounters are all about community. We walk into a place and know that we’ll see at least one like-minded person who likes us. We don’t necessarily know who we’ll see, just that there’s a high probability of seeing at least one person.

Bouchercon, the world mystery convention, has kind of become my Cheers. Next month I’ll be traveling to Long Beach, and from November 13th through 16th, I’ll be hobnobbing with some of my favorite people on the planet: fellow mystery writers and readers and bloggers and book people! Woohoo!

It’s been a few years since my first Bouchercon, when my novel wasn’t a light on the publishing horizon. In 2010, I traveled from Portland to San Francisco on my own and ventured into the vast land that is the bar scene on my own. Was I scared? No, but I’m also not the most extroverted person in the world. Was this a problem? No! Even at my first Bouchercon I ran into a few people I knew.

And, as we all know, the mystery community is super supportive and welcoming. I plunked myself down with a group of Sisters-in-Crimers who invited me into their conversation. I made new friends such as Leslie Budewitz, Angela M. Sanders, Stephen Jay Schwartz, and Robin Spano (just to name a few).

Hey, and I've got a signature cocktail too? Who wants to drink Kilmoon Sours with me?

Hey, and I’ve got a signature cocktail too! Who wants to drink Kilmoon Sours with me?

I had no expectations, but I came away with dreams of a future within the community. I wanted the Cheers factor. I wanted people to see me and say, “Hi, Lisa!” I wanted, as the Cheers song goes, people (at least a few dozen!) to know my name.

Fast forward to Bouchercon, Albany, one year ago, in which I was a debut novelist with an ARC — at long last! I showed that ARC to everyone who’d grant me a few seconds. I was thrilled to have something to say for myself. Because of social networking, I could say, “Hello, Hank, so nice to meet you at long last.” And, “Johnny, congrats on the win!”

A few people did know my name by then, and I knew a few people’s names right back.

Now, we come to Long Beach in just a few short weeks. KILMOON, my mystery set in Ireland, has been out in the world since March. I’m officially an “author.” I’ll be on a panel and participate in the debut author breakfast. I’ll get to sign books alongside my peers.

Most of all, I’ll stroll into the Hyatt bar and know people, and many will know me. Bouchercon is totally nuts, don’t get me wrong, but it also allows me an opportunity to get off my merry-go-around life and just be — be with my peeps, drink a few, support others, be supported, educate myself at the panels. I’ll talk to friends I’d normally hurriedly comment to on Facebook. In an odd kind of way, it’s about slowing down a little bit.

And, of course, I’ll meet new people who will become part of my ever-expanding network of high probability random encounter mystery friends. Each year, the Bouchercon reunions will get that much better. For me, going to Bouchercon is an investment in our community. What could be more fun than that?

P.S. Here are links to my previous posts about Bouchercon: San Francisco, 2010, and  Albany, 2013.

When Not Caring Is Good

Me being silly. What the heck was I talking about anyhow?

Me being silly. What the heck was I talking about anyhow?

This morning I chanced on a blog post by a fellow mystery writer, Jess Lourey. In her post, she discusses being herself out here on the Internet, which is to say letting go of the fear of what others think of us.

We fear alienating people and getting harassed for not being polite and nicey-nice. As writers, we fear losing readership or at least not gaining more readers. We fear that in being ourselves, we may offend some folks, who may then rip us apart in their Amazon or Goodreads reviews.

We fear not being liked. We fear being found wanting of whatever virtues others hold most dear.

I’ve met Jess, and she’s nice as can be, and (not but, and) as she says on her blog post, she’s also inappropriate, foul-mouthed, and raunchy. I identified with this because I am too. I can also be blunt and confrontational. I can be snarky. I have a warped sense of humor–even sometimes scatological or macabre. I’m not particularly grossed out by stuff, so when I joke around about my dog eating my cat’s vomit, I’m not likely to think people will be disgusted and think ill of me for wondering if there are still nutrients in the vomit …

(Seriously, are there nutrients when the cat just ate not five minutes previously? My dog hasn’t gotten ill yet. And for Christ’s sake — she nibbles on kitty rocca from the litter box. She must be getting something out of it. Right?)

Last week I had a revelation. I was on my way to Entitled: A Reading, which I mentioned on this post. It was quite the cool art show/reading event with seven of us writers reading flash fiction pieces. I’d written a short story called Cinema Verite (which should have accent marks, but I don’t know how to do that in WordPress).

On the ride over to the reading, my friend Cindy Brown asked me if I was ready or how I was feeling, something like that, because she knows I’m not a public speaker. My answer surprised even me: Oh, I don’t care. She said, “What? You don’t care?”

The revelation is this: I meant “I don’t care” in the best way ever. I didn’t care if people liked my story, and I didn’t care if I stumbled over words here and there. I didn’t care how I came off or how my piece compared to the other pieces.

And I felt SOOOOOO liberated. I was only a little nervous, nothing too bad, rather than on the verge of stage fright. The reading went well. I would say I even had fun while I was up there. I made eye contact with the crowd and all that good stuff.

The thing about being out here as ourselves is that we’re likely to encounter flack now and then. Someone may willfully misinterpret us, or project false images onto us and then get disappointed, or look for ways to be offended (especially those righteously PC types).

We can spend our lives jumping through other people’s hoops, or we can be our authentic selves. The older I get the more intolerable the first option has become.

All this is to say that I liked Jess’s blog post today; she was my hero for the day.

First Draft Writing: Math Anxiety Say “Hi” to Writing Anxiety

entitledIt had been so long since I’d written something from nothing — that is, a first draft — that last week I got myself all balled up in knots about the prospect of writing an itty bitty piece of flash fiction. It felt like the math fear I used to have in high school. In fact, I just looked up “math fear” on Google — it’s apparently an actual thing. Who knew?

Here’s what Wikipedia says: Mathematical anxiety is anxiety about one’s ability to do mathematics independent of skill.

Last week I suffered from writing anxiety. A deadline for a 1,000 word piece of original writing got moved up by two weeks. Yikes! I started to freeze up in an exact mimic of my math fear of old. But, the thing is … I could feel the anxiety coming on, so I told myself to just have fun writing whatever crazy thing came to mind from gazing at the paintings that were my prompts. (See below for a description of the event I’m writing this piece for — it’s pretty cool.)

I’d spent so long in the land of revision that I could barely remember what it felt like to write a first draft, which, for me, is a right-brained activity — a lot of jumping in with faith in my creativity. (Revision is more left-brain analytical.)

If I jumped in with nonsense thoughts would my brain kick in with decent ideas?

I’m glad to say that it did … But not until after I’d procrastinated most of the weekend away, written one paragraph and then gnashed my teeth while brainstorming a coherent story–AND not until after I’d set that attempt aside. Apparently, I needed to rev the engine for a few days on a false start. Maybe my subconscious was working something out while I was farting around because yesterday — poof — I had a workable, likable (as in, I liked it) idea.

And I wrote my 1,000-word first draft without a hitch.

AND, it was great fun and I felt good and I realized that I’ve missed first draft writing. I’m relieved that my creative brain is still intact. Such a relief because I still have months of revision ahead of me for the second novel in my series. THEN, I’ll be able to get crackin’ on a first draft for the third book.

I can’t wait for that! I’ve got a solid line on the story for that novel, so far out there in the future.

Right now, though, I need to — yes — revise my 1, 000-word flash fiction piece.

Here’s the information on the event. And, if any of you are in the Portland area, come by!

ENTITLED: A READING

In conjunction with the Entitled Group Art Show, this reading of original work by seven writers will be held on October 9th, starting at 6:00 pm at Glyph Cafe, 804 NW Couch, Portland.

What is Entitled? 25 artists picked titles at random from a hat and created 50 visual art pieces based on those titles. The exhibition runs through the month of October with the opening on October 2nd. For the reading, the seven writers picked three of the art pieces at random. Inspired by these images, each writer wrote an original short piece. The reading will be the first time any of these stories have been heard.

The writers:

J David Osborne
Barry Graham
Rios De la Luz
Lisa MoonCat Miller
Lisa Alber
Alex Bogartz
Johnny Shaw