Invasion of the demon horde

Sharon Ashwood
October 5, 2009  •  No Comments

In the world of the paranormal romance, demons are growing nearly as popular as vampires and were-critters. Whether this reflects a desire for the badder bad boy, or just for an alpha hero that doesn’t require plasma slurpies or a chew toy, we seem to be in a Dantë-esque surplus of the demonic. I’m guilty of adding to the horde: the hero of Scorched (Signet Eclipse, Dec 1/09) has his own brimstone moments. It’s not that he’s a bad guy. He just tried to pick up the wrong girl in a bar. It happens.
And, where there are demons, angels (fallen flat as my last souffle) are not far behind. I’ve noticed a flock of the ex-angelic gracing romances these days. Not surprising: Entities finding their way across the old good/evil dividing line is an interesting subject, no matter where they start out from. Romance is often about redemption and, if love is the agent of change, it’s hard to find a reader who doesn’t root for a hero who, after a suitably rocky start, turns out to be good. Not so good he can’t adore his woman’s earthly charms, mind you. A few rough edges have to stay. Otherwise, they won’t fit into our human lives and families.
I’ve often wondered, though, about the practical side of paranormal romance. Case in point: what about the subtle but pervasive sulphur smell clinging to the carpet and drapes after your demon sweetie has invited the boys over for poker night? Will Febreeze take care of that, or do you need to exorcise the rec room yet again? And then there’s that gross head-spinning thing he always does after a few drinks on New Year’s Eve. That never goes over as well as he thinks it does. Boys will be boys, whatever the species.
There could be rocky moments in these happy-ever-afters. Nevertheless, we live in hope. The animal rescue societies can’t hold a candle to the vast number of fanged, furry, and feathered we romance writers have rehabbed and found forever homes. Fortunately, we don’t require a mandatory spay/neuter program.
Collectively, we’ve done good work rescuing the noble lover from grave, pit, and dog pound. However, domesticating the demonic does have a “farthest frontier” feel about it. I mean, after all the ectoplasm and belching of flame, after we’ve redeemed all the bad boys in hell, what next?
Anybody find sea monsters sexy? I mean, we’re talking lots and lots of flexible tentacles here …


A bit of a side-trip

Sharon Ashwood
October 4, 2009  •  No Comments

Yesterday was fascinating – I went to a friend’s house and played recording engineer/the monkey pushing the buttons while other people worked, however you want to look at that.  Once upon a time I played with a band, and so had some mic stands, a decent mic, cables, etc.  With the addition of a  mixer and a laptop with podcasting software, I was a portable recording unit. If I only knew how to use half the stuff, I’d be in business.

Anyway, add two actors and we were recording promo stuff for Scorched. A big, huge, sloppy thank you to both of them for being patient with me and their willingness to play the were-cougar DJ, Errata, and the FM Guy. Lunch was the least I could do!

My only question was why I was exhausted afterward, when all I did was sit around and try and look intelligent underneath the headphones? Did you really think I was actually turning any of those buttons on the mixer?

The results of all this will land on the website eventually … stay tuned!


Finish the wretched book mini-marathon

Sharon Ashwood
October 3, 2009  •  1 Comment

I’ve taken some time off the day job to shove Unchained closer to the finish line.  This book has had a very disjointed writing process.  Part of it was finishing up with school – I kept having to stop and write an assignment or exam.  I had a few other writing commitments to take care of.  Then, there is promo for Scorched, and the whole living as a functional adult problem.  Good for practicing multi-tasking, bad for writing.

So, I had to set some time aside and give it priority.  Yesterday, I made the mistake of going to email first, and that held me up until about noon.  But, I wrote a complete chapter after taking a walk.  I had one of those insights that I really only get partway into a long work – a real sense of what’s at the bottom of a character’s personality. It cleared a lot up for me and I think will make the story a lot more understandable for the reader. Ashe is a fairly straightforward gal, but even she has her blind spots.

If all else fails, always ask the vampires what’s going on. They always seem to know.


The G.P. score: Sharon’s top ten

Sharon Ashwood
September 23, 2009  •  No Comments

To me, guilty pleasures are indulgences—definitely things my idealized higher self deplores, because she’s the type with money in the back, the ideal physique, a clean kitchen, and a better working career. But that version of myself is a bore and I switch her off as often as possible. I’m at peace with my baser instincts.

What gives me that sparkly feeling of getting away with something I perhaps should not? What cost too much? What’s a taste sensation I should skip but can’t? Where do I fail in my responsibilities and love it? Stay tuned, because I made a list.

How to be guilty? Oh, let me count the ways – or ten of them, at least.

10. My red boots. Yes, they were expensive imports. Yes, the heels are high. Whatever. It’s my feet.

9. Suffed grape leaves from that little Greek place in Sidney that makes the best darned lemon sauce. Nom nom nom!

grape-leaves-ck-1097025-l

8. Buying my Christmas holiday read hardcover and not waiting for the paperback.

7. Hotel room writing sprees. Mini-bar, laptop, room service: go! Of course, I paid a substantial sum of money for that conference I more or less ignored, but whatever …

6. Fashion magazines. Utterly useless. Love ‘em.

5. Horror flicks. Cliché counting is a great drinking game.

4. The BIG bag of red licorice at the movie theatre. Red vinyl! Yum!

3. Going on computer/email/phone strike for 24 hours. Ah, peace.

2. The Friday meltdown: lying on the couch with a book and a glass of wine and ignoring the million chores waiting for me. (Bonus points for refusing to move because it would disturb the cat.)

1. Friends’ nights out with appropriate world domination discussion.

That last one isn’t really a guilty pleasure, but I value it so much it should be. There’s no substitute for conviviality and nachos. We need that face time to catch up, to plot and plan, and relieve the stresses of unplanned adulthood. Diets are blown, restraint programs sunk, but it’s still cheaper than psychotherapy!

I think that’s the point of guilty pleasures–they’re small transgressions, but have a high payoff in enjoyment. Blowing off a little bit of steam is healthy.

Question of the day: When standing in the junk food aisle and faced with enough money for one treat, what would you pick?


Ghoul says, “I can’t believe I ate the whole cemetery”

Sharon Ashwood
September 16, 2009  •  No Comments

If I’m really writing, I don’t tend to snack. If I’m stuck or procrastinating, I can graze through my fridge like a herd of deer through a prize garden.
food_junkfoodIt’s all about unloading nervous energy. Crunchy is good. Virtuous is better. Over the years, I’ve learned to stock up on veggie sticks and ban Succulent Evil at the front door, because dietary judgment fails in the face of an artistic crisis. Fortunately, the nearest junk food emporium is a fifteen-minute walk away. Sloth wins out over the appeal of a bag of chips.

I was contemplating this blog and kept bumping up against one very compelling question. It’s one thing to be a human author with a bad case of the munchies, but what about my characters?
Pizza place: So you want the pizza delivered. What toppings would you like?
Vampire: Forget the pizza. Just send the driver.
With vamps, one could go on and on in a similar, uh, vein, and it would lead nowhere good.
I’ve always wondered about the urban werewolf. Real wolves are built for speed – long legged and slim – in order to chase down their dinner. Would it be hard for citified werewolves to maintain that so-svelt physique? Sure, he might have to run a bit to catch his nightly jogger, but there’s prey a-plenty in most city parks. After a few years of easy pickings, would the Wolfman have to spend hours on the treadmill like everyone else? What happens if you’re a roly-poly werewolf? Do the Hellhounds laugh and call you names?
Demons stumped me. What do they look for when they stand with the fridge door open? A box of Soul Snax? A bowl of Hot as Hellfire Fudgy Brimstone Ripple?
Mom demon: Who took the last of the lava and put the empty container back?
Little sister demon: Azazael drank it straight from the carton!
Azazael: Quit tattling, or I’ll take away your Inquisitor Barbie.
L.S.D.: Mo-o-o-m!
Mom demon: Just wait till your sire gets home.
How about the Demon Celebrity Chef cooking show? A bit of flame and sulphur could put a whole new spin on the old “Bam!” routine.
Uh, hold that thought. As I write this, my stomach is telling me it’s lunchtime. Salad with a few Moroccan olives and feta. Nice, simple, and cheerfully dull. Outside of the occasional illicit BLT, I’m vegetarian. Which is why paranormal romance is only in fiction. It’s hard enough agreeing on a restaurant when you’re with another human.
Werewolf:   Honey, I’m home, what’s for dinner? Oh, no, mailman again?


Java Jones Blues

Sharon Ashwood
September 14, 2009  •  No Comments

coffeeNothing says “Get down to work!” like a cup of coffee. It’s the fuel that gets me on the road in the morning. It’s a social communion and a comfort object. When I meet with friends, curl up with a book, or sit down to concentrate on a task, a cup of coffee is usually nearby. After my laptop, caffeine is probably my number one writing tool. I’m not alone. Three-quarters of the adult population in the US drinks coffee. A National Coffee Association survey revealed average consumption among javaheads is around 3.1 cups per person per day, with men slightly ahead of women.  No wonder our world is so fast-paced. We’re collectively buzzed. And jangled. As I stared at the bedroom ceiling at four-thirty this morning, pondering deadlines, I began to doubt the wisdom of worshipping the bean. I’d been up late working on my book, but now I was too wired to sleep. The next day’s word count was going to be a slog on four hours of shut-eye. Creativity requires alertness and motivation. Some of that’s got to come from real rest, not just a barista. So where did my coffee intake enter the realm of diminishing returns? When did it just plain start sabotaging my productivity? Some quick surfing (heck, I was awake anyway) produced plenty o’ factoids. Caffeine is a psychoactive drug that alters a person’s mood by raising glucose levels to provide a “buzz.” According to one web site it takes 350 mg of caffeine a day to become addicted. A 5 ounce cup of coffee contains between 60 and 150 mg of caffeine, tea 35 to 60 mg, ordinary cola 30-55 mg per 12-oz. can, and the high-test colas about 55-70 mg. In other words, it’s fairly easy to hit junkie levels of caffeine intake during the course of a day. The physical side effects are legion. Besides the jitters and insomnia, excessive caffeine intake results in increased levels of cholesterol, blood pressure, and risk of anemia as well as cardiac, gastric, and assorted plumbing problems. While caffeine may improve performance on simple tasks, it nukes short term memory and fine motor coordination. On the flip side, a Harvard web site states that the risk for type 2 diabetes is lower among regular coffee drinkers. Also, coffee may reduce the risk of developing gallstones, colon cancer, and Parkinson’s disease. Coffee improves performance in long-duration physical activities (and if novel-writing isn’t an endurance sport, I don’t know what is). Further surfing produced a range of results, some of them alarmist. The common-sense bottom line: moderation is key. For most people, a cup or two is okay, but more than that can impact health. Caffeine is one of those crutches than can eventually cripple you. I remember reading about hard-drinking, chain-smoking, hard-partying writers who approached their pages under the influence of a chemical stew and still turned out brilliant prose. I’ve always wondered if that was myth, or if I’m just a genetic weenie with a decidedly non-Pulitzer constitution. At any rate, it hardly seems fair to have to surrender yet another vice, but I like my sleep. So now, when I head into the writing zone, I’ll have to convince myself some other hot beverage will do the trick. Somehow, though, writing shoot ‘em up action scenes with a cup of Horlicks just seems wrong.


This just in: folks, we have a monster.

Sharon Ashwood
September 11, 2009  •  No Comments

 ogopogostamp

Yes, we here in Beautiful British Columbia are used to strange phenomena, not the least of which is our provincial politics. But there’s more, according to the local Scientific Cryptozoology Club, who are planning to have a look-see in one of our local lakes. See the article here.

Well, there’s still untouched wilderness in parts of BC, so who knows. To my knowledge, all of the lake monsters around here (Cadborosaurus, Ogopogo etc) are of the serpent-ish variety. With 39 critter-haunted lakes, it sounds like a bit more than one or two lone specimens, unless they’ve got air miles and a rigorous travel schedule.

At least, as the article observes, these sightings are worth checking out. They might not be Nessie’s BFF or Sasquatch’s tub toy, but it could be a species not previously recorded in the area.  If so, it’s better know if there’s an endangered creature out there in need of protection.

John Kirk, author of In the Domain of the Lake Monsters (and no known relation to James T.) plans an expedition to Cameron Lake to look for our snakey friend on Sept. 19.


School Doom

Sharon Ashwood
September 8, 2009  •  No Comments

apple_booksI always liked learning things as a kid. That did not equate to a love of school. I just couldn’t see the point, and rational argument about future job prospects is a non-starter when you’re six or even thirteen.

What I did like was the autumn—the first, wine-sharp tang of fall has always made me come alive. I treasured the fire of turning leaves, jack frost silvering the chain link fence (yes, your tongue does stick if you lick it) and the acrid smell of bonfires. It was time for the ubiquitous grandma-knitted woollies and lunchtimes of tomato soup.
Of course, back-to-school itself had compensations, like new clothes, fresh school supplies, and the contact high from other people who actually were excited. That was usually good for the first week. Then reality began to set in:

Day 1.  New stuff. Goody!

Day 2.   Show of end-of-summer despondency in hopes of more new stuff

Day 3.   Updating gym avoidance protocol

Day 4.    Phoning the drugstore 3,000 times to see if latest teen mag has been delivered because life, the universe, and school cannot progress without authorized fashion instruction

Day 5. Complaining to friend whose mother doesn’t care about said fashion authority, either. This phone call good for two hours.

Day 6. Official boy watch begins. <em>Wow</em>. In post-surveillance free time, begin <em>Lord of the Rings </em>for the third time, dreaming of Aragorn

Day 7. Boy watch continues. Surely The Boy (<em>le sigh</em>) is Aragorn-in-waiting—tall, dark, silent.

Day 8. Scientific field excursion aka welcome back school dance proves all too conclusively The Boy dances like an orc, or at least a troll. Enemy agent in disguise?

Day 9. Boy watch is definitely over. What was I thinking? Crushing on teacher because, y’know, he’s like <em>scholarly</em> and <em>mature</em>.

Day 10. Dress code? Whaddya mean dress code? Public education is a social experiment gone seriously wrong.

Day 11. First math test. Teacher <em>must</em> be Saruman in disguise. I squander my affections on the unworthy.

Day 12. My soul is made of darkness eternal, and yet we must read <em>Rascal</em>. Mock me if you will, my gloom is impenetrable.

Day 13. Gym is cancelled!  Yay!


Wtr me u idiot!

Sharon Ashwood
August 30, 2009  •  No Comments

As if I don’t get enough flack about my lackadaisical household routines, now my plants can Tweet their complaints. Too much H2O? Too little? Now they can tell you all about it.  A new system called Botanicalls, developed by interactive telecommunications researchers, allows your plants send text messages via a soil-moisture sensor device.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/videos/2009/0101-thirsty_plants_text_for_help.htm

This is all well and good, but it brings to mind some books I read years ago.  They covered a range of scientific research exploring plant intelligence, including the fact that plants can identify, at least under some circumstances, individual humans. The Secret Life of Plants, by Peter Tompkins and Christopher Bird is a truly fascinating read.

Okay, if plants are smart enough to turn wireless technology into more than a “please water me” proposition, things could get interesting.

houseplants-detox-the-air

My Twitter account will start filling up with stuff like:

*Schultz’s plant food AGAIN?  C’mon!
*I ain’t bloomin’ for you, sweetheart, till you get me high speed cable.
*This tiny pot is KILLING my roots.
*New window. Now.
*Cat alert! Cat alert!
*Green and leafy looking for pollen fun. Woody stems only need apply.


Head office

Sharon Ashwood
August 25, 2009  •  1 Comment

In the quest for peace and quiet, I’ve heard stories of authors who wrote in all kinds of places. One apparently hid in the broom closet with a typewriter balanced on their knees. I understand the instinct. I’m not one of those people who can write in coffee shops or even with a radio on. A hedge trimmer three blocks down will drive me crazy, and the Demon Lord of Kitty Badness has come close to taking a one-way trip to the nearest storm drain. I need quiet!

Consequently, I write on a laptop so I can hunt out the “right” spot to commune with the muse. I may roam from spot to spot like a bird looking for the right tree to nest in. Most often I just go for the kitchen table, as it’s the biggest surface around. Since it’s on the second floor, it has a nice view of trees, squirrels, and chickadees. Also handy to the fridge and the coffee pot.

dlkb

The downside of this system is that I lose things. I don’t have a proper place to do all the admin work that comes with writing. Believe me, there’s a ton—contest prizes to send out, promotion to organize, contracts, letters, schedules, blah, blah, blah. One accumulates stationery at a furious rate—bookmarks, mailing envelopes, author copies, and so on. The writing detritus is advancing like a slow tide across my living room.

Solution? I have a small, bright sewing room that I’m eyeing for an office. Someday I’ll get organized enough to move my piles of paper, printers, fax machine, and stacks o’ stuff around. I’d do it now except I know it’s a job that will take longer than I think, and I have a book due. November is looking good …. I might get my new digs set up in time to decorate for Christmas.


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