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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Wistful Wednesday

Looking For Inspiration

So I've been sitting here trying to come up with something witty for this post and I've got nothing. Just blank. I need inspiration. What should I write about? Do I even feel like writing today? Maybe I should just read instead...

For those of us who write, this is, unfortunately, a common occurrence. More often than we'd like to acknowledge, we come up against this blankness that supersedes everything else and makes us totally crazy. You could call it the super nova of writing. Even though you may have a ton of great ideas twinkling in your brain like so many shiny stars, something happens to make your will to write them implode and create this great black void of nothingness.

So the question is, what do you do to get around this nothingness? How do you get back on track? How do you find inspiration to keep on doing what you do, even if it's something you love doing? I am open to ideas, so let them roll! Would love to see what you come up with!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Twilight Thursday

Thinking Inside the Box
By Vincent Zandri

I’m an artist. Ok, not a visual artist, but I am a writer. A full-time writer who was groomed for the commercial construction business and who, for a time, worked as a project manager for said construction business.

My dad, a commercial construction business owner, taught me to think “inside the box” as it were. Because after all, this was a business of straight lines that were supposed to come together and/or intersect at precise, planned points; a business of bottom-lines, efficient use of space and time, apples and apples, oranges and oranges.

I hated it.

Being very different from my dad, I insisted on thinking “outside the box,” simply because that was my nature. In a word, I have always been very uncomfortable with thinking inside the box, finding instead a sort of comfort in my attraction to all things, well, outside the box. In high school, I was the kid who befriended the outsiders who wore black, and styled their hair into spiky Mohawks. I dug punk rock and new wave instead of classic rock. I dreamed of living in Europe rather than the burbs, and I took to the construction business like a fish takes to a dry desert environment.

As a journalist, I butter my bread by doing a lot of architecture and construction writing. Recently it occurred to me that over the past century, architects have been fighting a similar battle: to either design inside the box or outside the box. After all, the box as a form in and of itself is one of the most efficient architectural design standards ever conceived of. Just take a stroll along mid-town Broadway or Madison Avenue in Manhattan and you will see so many examples of boxes your brain can’t possibly process them all. Wide boxes; thin boxes; tall boxes; short boxes; boxes stacked on top of one another; boxes made of shiny steel; boxes made of glass; boxes that form a kind of zig-zag; even boxes built inside other boxes. In major cities like New York, urban architecture is all about the box. But at the same time, it’s all about thinking outside the box about the box. If you catch my drift.

Yet according to journalist Karrie Jacobs, speaking on behalf of her design concept of “boxism,” while 21st century designers are doing their best to abandon the concept of the box for more striking pyramids, spirals, or even “swooping” architecture that reaches more for aesthetics than it does symmetry or efficiency, they are at the same time more in love with the box than ever before.

“We go to a restaurant where everything undulates, where fluid walls change colors according to mood, where every surface has its own custom-programmed texture. But what are we all doing in this amazing environment? We’re studying the little boxes in our hands: texting, checking our Facebook feeds, tweeting. We’re uploading pictures of our meals or transmitting our locations to Foursquare. The world around us is expressive beyond our wildest dreams, but we don’t much notice because we’re deep in our boxes. Our iPhones, our Kindles, our BlackBerries, our iPads: all of them are containers, slim but rectilinear, that synthesize and modulate complexity.”

I think it's safe to say we find comfort inside the box even if we have no choice as individuals but to express ourselves outside the box. The same can be said of the publishing business. For years I thought inside the box while living the life of the Bohemian writer-guy, outside the box. I became convinced, like the rest of the MFA-in-Writing candidates, that the only true measure of success in this business came in the form a major contract with a major publishing house (you know, a big square box inside Times Square).

That contract was awarded to me ten years ago by a Random House imprint along with a quarter of a million dollars. But it all felt very uncomfortable for me, because even though I was doing what was expected of a successful novelist, I felt very anxious about having to "pay back" all that advance money. The major question I kept asking myself was this: How many books do I have to sell in order to make up that huge advance? The answer was this: lots of them. Too many to even comprehend. In other words, I was never going to sell enough box-shaped hardcovers or paperbacks in order to keep myself securely inside the box. If I wanted to stay alive in this business, I was going to have to start thinking outside the box. I was going to have to embrace a new design model.

It didn't happen right away. But when indie publishing took off in concurrence with the E-Book revolution, that's when I realized that my outside the box publishing opportunity had arrived. Here was a system that didn't put up a lot of up-front money, if any. Yet because the dominant form of publication was digitally produced E-Books, my titles would become available to a global market 24/7. I would be paid responsibly, according to each unit sold. And, as it turns out, those units can really add up.

Over the past month, I've moved more than 60,000 copies of THE INNOCENT landing me on the Amazon Top 10 for Bestselling Kindle E-Books which, as a writer who should for business purposes think inside the box, is precisely where I want to be. For the first time in ages I was a happy camper. Here was a new publishing design model that allowed me to publish outside the norm, while allowing me the opportunity to make a living. A very good living as it turns out.

Perform a small scientific experiment today. See how many times you come into contact with a box, be it your laptop computer, your box of cereal, your cubicle at work (your box inside a box), your Kindle, IPad, or Nook. Try and calculate how many times a day you purposely escape into your little box. My guess is you can’t go a single hour without experiencing some kind of physical relationship with a box. That’s when you will begin to realize that no matter how much you attempt to think “outside the box,” you are doing so while steadfast grounded “inside the box.” And that's okay. The point is to strike a balance between conventional wisdom and new thinking.

If the big publishing houses want to keep up with the rent payments for their big urban boxes in New York City, it might be time for them to think outside the you-know-what. That will mean offering higher royalties for E-Books to authors, but at the same time, lowering their prices for readers. Clearly, an an almost impossibly outside the box concept for them. But it's not their fault. It cost a lot of "overhead" money to maintain a publishing house inside a big Manhattan box. But that doesn't mean the Big 6 Pubs are going away anytime soon. Nor should they. It's simply time for them to rethink their grand design, from the ground up. It's time for them to think outside the box while surviving inside the box.

Vincent Zandri is an essayist and freelance photojournalist, and the author of the recent bestsellers, The Remains, Moonlight Falls and The Innocent . His novel As Catch Can (Delacorte) was touted in two pre-publication articles by Publishers Weekly and was called “Brilliant” upon its publication by The New York Post. The Boston Herald attributed it as “The most arresting first crime novel to break into print this season.” Other novels include Godchild (Bantam/Dell) and Permanence (NPI). Translated into several languages including Japanese and the Dutch, Zandri’s novels have also been sought out by numerous major movie producers, including Heyday Productions and DreamWorks. Presently he is the author of the blogs, Dangerous Dispatches and Embedded in Africa for Russia Today TV (RT).

He also writes for other global publications, including Culture 11, Globalia and Globalspec. Zandri’s nonfiction has appeared in New York Newsday, Hudson Valley Magazine, Game and Fish Magazine and others, while his essays and short fiction have been featured in many journals including Fugue, Maryland Review and Orange Coast Magazine. He holds an M.F.A. in Writing from Vermont College and is a 2010 International Thriller Writer’s Awards panel judge. Zandri currently divides his time between New York and Europe. He is the drummer for the Albany-based punk band to Blisterz.

You can visit his website at or his blog at Connect with Vincent on Twitter at, on Facebook at and Myspace at

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Wistful Wednesday

Murder is a Family Business: Promo and Review


Just because a man cheats on his wife and makes Danny DeVito look tall, dark and handsome, is that any reason to kill him? The reluctant and quirky PI, Lee Alvarez doesn't think so. But the 34-year old ½ Latina, ½ WASP and 100% detective has her work cut out for her when the man is murdered on her watch. Of all the nerve. Set in the present, Murder is a Family Business is the first in a series of humorous mysteries revolving around Lee Alvarez, a combination of Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone and Janet Evanovitch’ Stephanie Plum, and rest of the Alvarez Family, detectives all. Seemingly light and frothy on the surface, the novel nevertheless explores familial love, the good, the bad and the annoying.

Completing the family is Lee’s Never-Had-A-Bad-Hair-Day aristocratic mother, Lila; computer genius brother, Richard; beloved uncle “Tio;” and her energetic orange and white cat, Tugger. When this group is not solving murders, they run Discretionary Inquiries, a successful Silicon Valley agency that normally deals with the theft of computer software. The love, humor and camaraderie shared within this family are what set this series apart from others.


Chapter I
The Not-So-Perfect Storm

"God, surveillance sucks," I griped aloud to a seagull languishing on a nearby, worm eaten post, he being my only companion for the past few hours. He cocked his head and stared at me. I cocked my head and stared at him. It might have been the beginning of a beautiful friendship, but a nearby car backfired and he took off in a huff. Watching him climb, graceful and white against the gray sky, I let out a deep sigh, feeling enormously sorry for myself. I eyeballed the dilapidated warehouse across the parking lot that was hanging onto the edge of the pier for any signs of life. I didn’t find any.

I knew I was in trouble earlier when I discovered that this was the only vantage point from which I could stay hidden and still see the “perpetrator’s place of entrance,” as I once heard on Law and Order. That meant I couldn’t stay in my nice, warm car listening to a Fats Waller tribute on the radio but had to be out in the elements, hunkered down next to a useless seawall.

For three lousy hours, rambunctious waves from the San Francisco Bay made a break for freedom over this wall and won. Salty foam and spray pummeled my face, mixed with mascara, and stung my eyes like nobody’s business. Then the wind picked up and the temperature dropped faster than the Dow Jones on a bad day.

Speeding up Highway 101 toward Fisherman’s Wharf, I’d heard on the car radio that a storm was moving in. When I arrived, I got to experience it first hand. Yes, it was just winter and me on the San Francisco Bay. Even Jonathan Livingston Seagull had taken a powder.

I concentrated on one of two warehouses, mirrors of each other, sitting at either side of a square parking lot containing about twenty cars and trucks. “Dios mio, do something,” I muttered to the building that housed the man who had caused me to age about twenty years in one afternoon.

I struggled to stay in a crouched position, gave up and sat down, thinking about the man I’d been following. I was sure he was a lot more comfortable than I and I resented him for it. Two seconds later, I realized the cement was wet, as well as cold. Cursing my stupidity, I ju
mped up and stretched my cramped legs while trying to keep an eye on the door he had entered, lo those many hours before. With me being the only one on the job, I couldn’t keep an eye on the cargo bay on the other side of the warehouse but I felt pretty safe about it being a non-exit. Without a boat or a ship tied there, it emptied into the briny bay. The perp, thankfully, didn’t look like much of a swimmer, even on a nice day.

I tried to focus my mind on Mr. Portor Wyler, said perpetrator, and the singular reason for all my misery. I kept coming back to this burning question: why the hell was a Palo Alto real estate mogul driving 42-miles roundtrip two to three times a week to a beat-up, San Francisco warehouse on the waterfront?

After that one, I had an even better question: what the hell was I doing here? Oh, yeah. Thanks, Mom.

My name is Liana Alvarez. It’s Lee to my friends, but never to my mother. I am a thirty-four year old half-Latina and half-WASP PI. The latter, aforesaid relatives drip with blue blood and blue
chips, and have been Bay Area fixtures for generations. Regarding the kindred Mexican half of me, they either immigrated to the good old US of A or still live in Vera Cruz, where they fish the sea. How my mother and father ever got together is something I’ve been meaning to ask Cupid for some time.

However, I digress. Back to Portor Wyler or, rather, his wife, Yvette Wyler. It was because of her I was in possession of a cold, wet butt, although I’m not supposed to use language like that because Mom would be scandalized. She had this idea she raised me to be a lady and swears her big mistake was letting me read Dashiell Hammett when I was an impressionable thirteen year old.

My mother is Lila Hamilton Alvarez, of the blue blood part of the family, and CEO of Discretionary Investigations, Inc. She was and is my boss. Yvette Wyler had been a friend of my mother’s since Hector was a pup, so when Mrs. Wyler came crying to her, Mom thought we should be the ones to find out what was going on. That didn’t seem like a good enough reason for me to be where I was, assigned to a job so distasteful no self-respecting gumshoe I hung out with would touch it, but there you have it. Leave it to my mother to lay a guilt trip on m
e at one of my more vulnerable times. I don’t know who I was more annoyed with, Mom or me.

Furthermore, I had no idea what my intelligent, savvy and glamorous mother had in common with this former school chum, who had the personality of ragweed and a face reminiscent of a Shar-Pei dog I knew once. Whenever I brought the subject up to Mom, I got claptrap about “loyalty” and “friends being friends.” So naturally, my reaction to the woman made me aware of possible character flaws on my part. I mean, here Mrs. Wyler was, one of my mother’s best friends, and I was just waiting for her to bark.

About the Author:

Heather is a story teller by nature and loves the written word. In her career, she’s written short stories, novels, comedy acts, plays, television treatments, ad copy, commercials, and even ghost-wrote a book.

One of her first jobs as a writer was given to her by her then agent. It was that of writing a love story for a book published by Bantam called Moments of Love. She had a deadline of one week
and then promptly came down with the flu. She wrote "The Sands of Time" with a temperature of 102 and delivered some pretty hot stuff because of it. Later on, she wrote short comedy skits for nightclub acts and ad copy for such places as No Soap Radio, where her love for comedy blossomed. Many of her short stories have been seen in various publications, as well as 2 one-act plays produced in Manhattan, one at the well-known, Playwrights Horizons.

Her novel, Murder is a Family Business, the first in the Alvarez Murder Mystery series, has been epublished by MuseItUp Publishing in January, 2011. The second in the series, A Wedding To Die For, debuts April 22, 2011. She is currently writing the 3rd of the series, and says they are a joy to write. Heather gets to be all the characters, including the cat!

You can visit Heather online at and her blog at

My Thoughts: I don't feel that I can give this a proper review as it was a dnf (did not finish) for me. I wanted to like it, I really did, but several chapters in, I was still wondering when the story was going to pick up pace, but it never did, so I stopped reading. There were a few problems for me. One, the protagonist's name wasn't even revealed until somewhere on page two. For me, even if this is part of a series, I believe the name should be stated on the first page, especially for those who might be coming into the series in a later book. Personally, I like to know who I'm reading about from the beginning, so I can get in their head, so to speak. This may be a minor thing, but it kept me from getting right into the action, which started me off in the wrong mindset.

Next, the action - or the lack thereof, in this case. As I said before, I kept waiting for something to happen, but it never did. Sure, it started off with a murder, but the revealing of it was in such a matter-of-fact manner, I felt like I was reading a news clip. And then there was a lot of time spent in a police station, a four-legged feline distraction, and the introduction of Lee's family, when all I wanted was to get to the important factor - the story. Maybe I'm just used to watching crime stories on television and so have been spoiled by the pacing, but this one never hit its stride before I gave up on it.

But this is just one person's experience. You must decide for yourself. If mysteries are your thing, give this book a try. The author shows skill and obviously knows how to put together a story. Maybe you'll have more patience than I did and eagerly read on to the pay-off. If you do - or if you've already read this book - I invite you to post a counter-review in the comments and tell everyone, myself included, why you think this book is a good read.

Friday, May 13, 2011



I'm sharing some unknown facts about myself today over at the Daily Dose of Decadence: Just the Facts with Gracen Miller!

I have a new release out too, a short erotic read, Fairy Casanova. If you read it, I'd love a review! Pandora's Box has been sent off to line edits! YAY!! Progress...but I have no idea how long that process will take. *sad face*

Does anyone have any plans for today or this weekend? I hope to take my kids to see Thor!

Hope everyone has an awesome weekend!


Friday, May 6, 2011


I'm late posting today, but it's been a crazy day already. If you didn't know it already, my e-book short story, Fairy Casanova, was released today. It's part of Decadent Publishing's 1NightStand series and it was so much fun to write. Here's a PG13 excerpt, but be warned, it is NOT a PG book!!

You want a CONTEST? Leave me a comment for a chance to win an e-copy of Fairy Casanova. I'll draw the winner late tonight! To receive additional entries into the contest, share this contest on facebook, twitter, or somewhere else on the web, BUT you gotta give me the link where it's posted.


Las Vegas lawyer, Sadie Sinclair, has hit rock bottom. Bankrupt, with her reputation ruined, and her fiancé is yachting Aruba with a hot babe. Desperate for a break from reality, she contacts 1NightStand and is shocked to discover she's been paired with a sexy fairy.

Jace is about to become King of the fairies. One minor glitch, he's obsessed with humans. Before becoming King, he wants one night with a human before he's forever forbidden from crossing into the human realm. After a stellar night of sex, Jace is surprised to discover Sadie isn't just a human, but his mate. Complicating everything with the revelation, he's willing to forfeit his kingdom for her, but Sadie must decide if he's worth the biggest gamble yet.



Knocking once to warn her of his arrival, he used the key card to let himself into the room. The door clicked shut behind him as he scanned the room for his evening’s companion.

"Hello," she said when their eyes met.

Her sultry voice tempted him, much as a Siren lured a man to his demise against the rocky coast of her island. His mortal Siren offered him a shy wave.

"Want a drink?" She held up a goblet, half-full of amber liquor.

Her edginess socked his acute fairy senses like a blow to the gut.

Interesting. Why was she here then?

"No, thanks." He moved toward her, intrigued by the competing vibes the woman evoked…reserved and salacious.

Maybe other men found the arctic chill of her gaze daunting. He found it intriguing, even challenging. Women would be envious and intimidated by her high-level eroticism.

Stunning, and nothing like the fairies he would command. Long, shiny, black hair framed her oval face. He couldn't wait to get his fingers in the wavy locks. Gunmetal-silver eyes warily watched him. Rimmed in a thin stripe of black eyeliner and splashed with a smidge of dark-gray shadow, the contrast brought out the stellar shade of her irises. High cheekbones, a slightly upturned nose, and wide lips, naturally dark red, or she'd been biting them in anxiety. Unlike the diminutive fairy-women, she was tall—not more than an inch or two shorter than his five-ten height. Most female fairies barely reached his chest, which made her a charming oddity. And she owned killer curves—again, unlike most beanpole-thin fairies—and those curves were framed in an evocative, skintight, black cocktail dress.

Jace stopped in front of her and stared at her mouth. He knew many places he wanted those lips, but mostly he wanted them rounded on an orgasmic scream.

"I'm Jace."

She swallowed and cleared her throat, but her voice came out low and raspy. "Sadie."

He dipped his finger into the crystal glass she held poised below her chin. A fat droplet of liquor clung to his forefinger, and he spread it across her pouty bottom lip. Her eyes widened, and her breathing noticeably accelerated. As if prompted, her tongue swiped away the moisture, and his cock twitched in reaction.

"You're perfect. Stunning."

She laughed, a charming sound, as a blush crept across her cheeks. For the first time since beginning his adventure, he considered the horrible ramifications of falling hard for a human. Impossible! There wouldn't be enough time to grow attached to a one-night stand. Neither would his parents nor soon-to-be subjects approve.


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Wistful Wednesday

What I Do When I Should Be Writing
Or: How I Conquer Writer's Block

by Margay Leah Justice

It happens to the best of us. Sometime, somewhere along the way, we run head-long into that brick wall of frustration called Writer's Block. It's not our fault, really. It's not like we're bad drivers who jumped the curb and hit the wall. Oh, no, the wall hit US. Trust me, there's a difference. If you're a writer, you know exactly what I'm talking about. If you're not, well maybe this applies to some other faction of your life. Work problems, family issues? Somewhere in your life, there inevitably comes a time when you're faced with a tough decision and your mind goes blank, hiding the answers from you. That's The Block.

So what do you do when The Block strikes you? Curl up in a fetal ball and cry for your mother? (Believe me, I've been tempted.) Scream your frustrations to the heavens? (Okay, so maybe I've done that. Once. Or twice. Okay, more than that - stop pressuring me!) Or do you just throw in the towel and say the heck with it? Well, before you do that last one, let me share with you some of the things I do to fight The Block. So, without further ado, here are...

Things I Do When I Should Be Writing:

1. I knit. Okay, who among you is really surprised by that revelation? If you've kept up with my posts on this blog, you already know that I have a passion for knitting, so is it really any surprise that I knit when The Block hits? Not only is knitting fun, creative, and therapeutic, it has a way of clearing the clutter from the brain. You wouldn't believe how many plot points I've resolved while knitting.

2. I play Mah jongg. This is the only computer game I play with frequency. I don't know what it is about this game, I just love it. Forget Bejewelled Blitz, Angry Birds, or Farmville - they hold no interest for me. Mah jongg is my game. When I play games, which I don't do very often because I have other things I should be doing. What were they again? Oh, yeah, writing, writing, and more writing. Like knitting, you wouldn't believe how many plot points I've worked out over a game of Mah jongg.

3. I plot. Yeah, it seems counter-intuitive, I know, but let me explain. When I have issues with the current story I'm working on, I work on the plot for the next one. Often, that frees up the mind and allows me to work through the other problem.

4. I read. There's nothing like a good book to inspire you to get off your butt and break through The Block. That is all.

5. I watch a good movie. You have no idea how many times I've come up with my own stories by watching a well-crafted movie. Same goes for clever television shows.

Well, I think that covers it. Just a few of the things I do when I'm hit with The Block. What do you do? I'd love to read your responses - I'm always looking for new ideas!