Some Useless Facts

Okay, I admit it.  I am a useless facts junkie.  This is no doubt the reason it takes me forever to look up one tiny detail.  I get lost in learning things I didn’t know, and soon, hours have gone by.

Today, I want to share some things I just learned about my home state of Texas:

  • The oldest tree recorded in Texas is near Fulton and is approximately 1,500 years old.
  • The first open domed stadium appeared in Texas.
  • More wool is produced in Texas than any other state in the U.S.
  • Charles Alderton, a pharmacists from Waco, invented Dr Pepper in 1885.  The period after “Dr” was removed in the 1950′s.
  • The word “Texas” comes from the Hasiani Indians and means friends and allies.
  • El Paso is actually closer to California than it is to Dallas.
  • According to state law, it is illegal to: milk another person’s cow, take three sips of beer while standing, or sell one’s eye.

So tell me, do you have any useless facts about your home state you’d like to share?

~Tiffany

An exciting new adventure!

At the end of this month, I’ll have the wonderful experience of having my publisher throw me a book launch party for the second book in my YA post-apocalyptic series The Color of Fear. The party is set for Armadillocon in Austin, Texas–two places I’ve never been–and I’m just..well, EXCITED!

The series is first of all, the book of my heart–my favorite child among the twenty novels I’ll have published by the end of the year. My editor Liz Burton asked me to take the story from one volume to three, and I’ve had so much fun fleshing out the characters and their journey.

For those of you who don’t know, the first book in the series is called WINDMILLS. The story begins in Hong Kong, in a tenement district:

Bio-terrorists release a plague in the United States that spreads to kill most of the world’s Caucasian population. As the deadly virus mutates, Tzu Shin, a renowned medical doctor and biologist, defects from China to help develop a cure. His only daughter, Lin Kwan, is left behind in Hong Kong with her aunt. Then Kwan’s father summons her from across the sea to bring him Chinese medicinal herbs he needs to develop a cure. Lonely and missing her parents, she accepts the challenge, traveling with her sensei Li Zhong to the New World. But a Chinese assassin is on her trail, determined to kill her and Li Zhong, and when Kwan discovers her father has disappeared, she sets out on a journey to find him and deliver her precious cargo, a quest that she may not survive.

Book Two takes our travelers further:

Xi San saved the life of a mysterious girl one night in his ravaged San Francisco neighborhood. He can’t get her out of his mind, but believes that she’s lost to him. When an old friend invites him to St. Louis, the new center of terrorist-decimated America, he leaves his old world behind.

Lin Kwan came to America to bring her scientist father Chinese medicinal herbs, hoping to stop the virus that killed most of the world’s Caucasians, before it mutates to infect the rest of the world. Following his trail, she meets the man who once saved her, and repays her debt.

Gathering diverse companions as they travel toward St. Louis, the two encounter deadly obstacles, including Gabriel, a self-styled religious leader and white supremacist determined to take revenge for the white man.

But Gabriel isn’t their only enemy. They have to battle nature, prejudice and even those hidden among them who wish their destruction.

Book three is due next year, and I can’t wait to get started on it! In the meantime, you can find WINDMILLS at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other online sites, or you can order it in paperback to your local indie bookstore.

If you don’t want to wait, you can check out the free read The Splendid Expedition of Eddie Garrick, Esq., which is a serial companion blog detailing one of the young people’s journeys across the plague-ridden country.

Goodreads is having a giveaway for a set of WINDMILLS and DESTINATIONS, which runs from July 20-August 7, 2014. Please feel free to sign up, and enjoy! I know I will. Thanks to all my readers–I do this for all of us.  :)

Christmas in July!

First off, I’d like to say thanks to all the readers who took part in my Caption the Cat giveaway during the Summer Solstice Bash here at Authors By Moonlight. Congratulations to Virginia Horton for winning a $15.00 gift card to either Amazon or Barnes & Noble. Virginia, please contact me at sherryjames@hamilton.net and let me know which bookseller you’d prefer.

Okay, It’s Christmas in July!

The other day I got to thinking about this concept and wondering where this whole Christmas in July thing came from. I used to work retail so I naturally assumed it was just an advertising gimmick—which it is—but, when I checked it out on good old Wikipedia, I learned there is a bit more to it than that. Thanks to the online encyclopedia I had a duh moment. While it’s summer here in the northern hemisphere and we’re sweating and enjoying boiling temps, summer storms, growing crops and county fairs, the southern hemisphere enjoys it’s winter season—winter, the time us northern hemisphere folks enjoy Christmas with cold temps and snow and short daylight hours. Since winter falls in July in the southern hemisphere—according to Wikipedia– folks on that part of the globe at one point decided to do a little Christmas holiday celebrating during their winter. If you are from the southern hemisphere, share with us if you do any Christmas in July celebrating. Do you go all out with lights and & decorations? Or use it as a time to take a vacation? Gather with family?

In the US, I see the Christmas in July mainly as an advertising scheme. In the 1950’s merchants here decided they could capitalize on the whole Christmas in July theme and use it as a way to spur sales during a time when there isn’t a holiday to shop for, and the transition between spring/summer to fall/winter merchandise. Massive sales are run to move old inventory in order to make room for the new. And, hey, everyone loves a good sale, right?!

Of course, we can’t forget how Hallmark uses July as their roll out time for the year’s new line of Keepsake Ornaments—which, btw, launch this weekend! Are you a collector? I have a few that reflect my personal tastes, but don’t consider myself a collector.

So, I decided to do a little Christmas in July celebrating myself by putting my holiday romance, ELF TROUBLE, on sale for a $1.99 for the month. If you don’t quite feel up to dragging out the lights and tinsel, you can read about it and the spirit of the season in ELF TROUBLE, a Studs 4 Hire “short.”

If You’re Looking 4 Trouble, You’ve Found It!

Gil Boyd hates Christmas, so when his sexy lady bosses at Studs 4 Hire assign him to construct a Santa House for a fundraising event for a local animal shelter, he’s forced to quiet his inner Grinch and get the job done. On a tight deadline to complete the project, Gil is promised plenty of volunteer help only to find that the only help he’s going to get comes in the form of one tiny, blonde-haired beauty named Holly Everwood.

Between Holly’s elf hat, her unwavering holiday spirit, and the mangy mutt by her side, Gil is convinced she’s come direct from the North Pole just to torment his tattered, loner self. With time to complete the project running out, irritating Christmas carols accompanying his work, and a beautiful sprite tempting his resolve to remain unattached, Gil finds he’s in trouble up to his tool belt. Can Holly show Gil the real magic of Christmas is waiting if only he’ll open his heart?

Pick up your copy of ELF TROUBLE at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, All Romance EBooks, and Smashwords. But hurry. Sale ends when July ends!

Also to celebrate Christmas in July, I’m hosting a giveaway over at my website. All you have to do to enter is drop me an email with Christmas in July in the subject line. Tell me which one of my ebooks you’d like to receive for a prize, and boom, you’re entered! Deadline to enter is July 31st. I’ll pick a winner by random drawing.

Have a great month, and I’ll see you back here in August!

Sherry James

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Simple Pleasures

I know I’m lucky and that my living situation is shared by a very small percentage of people. My husband’s job is Maintenance Supervisor of a camp and conference center in the southern California mountains. Part of his compensation package is a small (750 s.f.) cabin AND meals when a program camp is running. So I love summertime because week-long camps are scheduled from the week schools let out right through August. That means I only have to cook 2 meals a week and for the rest of the year, I don’t cook on weekends. All I have to do is walk across camp and show up at the lodge to be served a meal. What a wonderful thing for a writer. My brain doesn’t have to menu-plan or keep inventory of available food on hand. Not to count the time spent cooking the food and cleaning the dishes and pans (no dishwasher here).

Another wonderful aspect of living at this camp is participating in some of the activities. Camp staff (and me) are welcomed into workshops or lectures offered by these programs. Yesterday was lake day, which means the afternoon and evening centered around providing the 75 junior high-aged youth and counselors the opportunity to kayak around the lake. For some, this is their first experience handling an oar and being in a small boat. Watching is fun because they develop confidence so quickly with this new skill. The girls wanted to row to see the group of ducks (which promptly swam away) and the guys had races. I remind myself to save these tidbits for use in a future story.

Dinner was served there—picnic style. Typical summer food—hot dogs, baked beans, salad, chips, fruit. But after taking our two dogs on a walk around the lake, even that simple fare tasted great. They were so excited to smell new and wilder scents than they get on their usual evening walk about our camp road. Here they are on the dock that extends into the small lake. Phoenix (on left) is a terrier mix we got from a rescue agency, and Keiko (on right) is a Japanese Shiba Inu—both are 4 years old and bring so much joy and fun into our lives.

I’d love to hear about your favorite simple pleasure of summer. On July 12, I’ll choose one lucky commenter to receive an electronic copy of my summer short story, Dipping In A Toe.

Linda is currently working on revisions for a Halloween novella.

In the Summertime, When All the Trees and Leaves are Green…

Small towns, I suspect, are similar every where. People know each other, the town has a certain rhythm of life, and part of the charm is how predictable the days are. My small town is at its best right now. The young people are out of school for the summer. We see more of them around town than we do during the school year. Evenings are long, and a little cooler than the rest of the day, so more of us are taking the leisurely stroll along shady streets. We’ve had an unusually cool summer–didn’t hit 100 until this week. Here in Central Texas, it’s not rare to reach triple digits in March or April.

One of the things I find most satisfactory about our town is shopping the Farmers’ Market and visiting with the vendors. Why is that such a high note in my life? Well, if you know me at all, you know I don’t cook. Not ‘can’t', but ‘don’t’. I’m allergic to kitchens, regard a trip to the supermarket as an obscene form of torture, and think preparing three meals a day is not to be mentioned in polite company. However, let me spend an hour in the Farmers’ Market, and I will leave weighed down by bags of homegrown tomatoes, fresh peas, new potatoes, and farm eggs.  I might even cook. I just can’t resist the open bins, the earthy smells, and the comfortable chat of the shoppers.

Small towns seem to thrive on festivals and parades. For reasons tucked away in dusty archives, our town celebrates the Fourth of July with a Patriotic Festival on the first Saturday in July, regardless of the date. This year’s event, as usual, featured the flag waving parade down Main Street.  The bands were valiant in full uniform as they made the mile long march in July heat. All the surrounding towns, which probably celebrated the Fourth on the Fourth, sent homecoming queens and pageant floats to roll along with our local organizations’ offerings. And in the evening, we convened in the park, either with our own picnic baskets or viands purchased from the vendor carts lining the parking lot. The  local ‘remember when’ band took over the bandstand and serenaded us with Big Band and Swing tunes. They were followed by the Symphonic Band borrowed from a nearby city. With patriotic favorites and Sousa marches, we leaned back to watch fireworks light up the sky above the river. We had one unplanned addition this year–a two-inch rain blessed us just as the bands began. Umbrellas popped up, the crowd clustered close to the bandstand, and the entertainment went on. The rain vanished in time for the fireworks to begin, and with a cooler evening, the townsfolk settled in to celebrate the evening.

In our little town, traffic still stops when a funeral procession passes. Bells chime from every church on Sunday morning. Your son’s first grade teacher may well have been yours as well.  The newspaper has been passing on the local news since the grandparents of  our senior citizens were courting. Though things change, population grows, we have more traffic, two high schools, and ‘new people’ living next door, somehow the town holds on to the little things that make it home. The mom and pop store down the street hasn’t changed though it’s the grandson who runs it now. The old drug store still serves the best coke float ever made, just as it did fifty years ago.  And the winding Colorado River is still speckled with sun-browned youngsters floating in innertubes on a sunny afternoon.  You’ll see straw hats, boots, and  levi cutoffs. That’s standard wear around here from about May until September. Long necks and guitars are Saturday night certainties. Know a small town with similar scenes? I’ll bet you do. We may do it with a Texas flavor, but somehow I suspect we’d find common elements if we compared life in small towns all over the country.

In my short story Help Wanted:WIFE, a Texas rancher with a practical approach searches for a wife by way of a want ad. What he finds in pretty Cherilyn, a lonely schoolteacher, has some CATastrophic possibilities. When they return from a small town dance…well, let’s just say the fur is flying.

I’m giving away an epub of this story to the reader who submits the best anecdote about small town life. Let us hear from you.

Fleeta Cunningham

Ann Stephens’ Giveaway Winner!

The winner of the e-gift card I gave away in my June post is Zoe Blair!  Zoe, let me know whether you’d like your card to Amazon or to Barnes and Noble.

Woo Hoo!! Congratulations !!!!

July 5th, 2014 Giveaway! 2 Comments

Lions and Tigers and … Peacocks?

Anyone familiar with The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron knows about the concept of artist dates. Those are occasions when you go someplace by yourself to relax, refresh, and inspire your creativity. She suggests a weekly artist date. Uh huh, right after I finish this mountain of laundry and get to the day job, Julia. Oh, and let’s not forget that book I’m writing.

;)

But I do try to get out on artists dates regularly, if not weekly. Recently I took at the zoo in my hometown. Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium (named after the husband of an early benefactor) has one of the best zoos in the U.S., and I have enjoyed visiting it for nearly half a century now, first with my dad and sisters; later with my sweetie and our kids. The zoo has a number of fascinating exhibits, as well as pleasant places to sit and observe both people and animals. I have a lot of happy memories connected with the place, and I was able to take a morning several weeks ago and spend some time alone there with my notebook.

I spent some time journaling and jotting down ideas for scenes, and of course I took pictures. You will notice most of them are big kitties — the Cat House (yes, that is what I call it) is my favorite exhibit. Along with an aquarium, indoor jungle and Desert Dome, the zoo has a huge aviary, bear grottos — but I never skip the big cats.

Fortunately none of the free-range peacocks bothered me (probably because I wasn’t eating). 

Can you see the chicks with the peahen in the photo on the left?

I didn’t see everything at the zoo that day, but that wasn’t my goal. (Trust me, THAT would take an entire day!) My artist date was on a perfect day, sunny but not roasting hot, and I wandered through my favorite areas, stopping to write not just notes but other ideas and my impressions of my surroundings just to exercise my ‘writer muscles’.

The zoo’s next project is to build enormous enclosures with much more room to roam for the large felines, but I’ll miss being able to get close shots like the ones below! Left to right are a snow leopard, a snoozing lion and a Bengal tiger.

In honor of our Summer Soltice Bash 2014, I’m giving away a $25 egift card (Amazon or B&N, winner’s choice!) Leave a comment here, like my author page on Facebook and/or follow me on Twitter at @Ann_Stephens! The winner will be determined by Rafflecopter!

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Welcome USA Today Bestselling Author Caroline Fyffe!

First, I’d like to give a big thanks to Sherry James for inviting me to be a guest blogger here today at Authors By Moonlight. Yay. I’m happy to be here.

As some of you know, for the last fifteen years I’ve written western historical romances about cowboys and their loves. (No, not their horses, but their sweethearts.) I’ve always preferred a man on a horse to one in a car, plane or boat. As a child, my favorite heroes were Luke McCain, Little Joe Cartwright, and the like. It’s still pretty much a mystery to me why I love the Old West so much. Growing up, I was the only one in a family of five girls who had this obsession. I even had the nickname name of—Booie. Because I loved the Jim Bowie show and watched it every week.

So, did you have a childhood preference that has followed you tenaciously throughout the years? If yes, please share. Or, did you have a funny nickname?

Leave me a comment and you’ll be in the drawing for a signed copy of my first book, WHERE the WIND BLOWS. Book three of my Prairie Hearts Series will be out September 30th.

Summer Solstice Bash Continues!

Meow, Readers! I’m excited to tell you the Summer Solstice Bash continues with USA TODAY Bestselling author, Caroline Fyffe. Caroline will be joining us tomorrow, June 26th. Be sure to stop by and leave a comment to win a copy of Caroline’s first book, WHERE the WIND BLOWS. I’ve personally read this book and I have to say it’s was purrfectly wonderful! It was a warm, wonderful story that captured me from page one. So, don’t miss out. And share the love by suggesting the Authors By Moonlight blog to all your friends. All of the hardworking authors here would greatly appreciate it.

Happy Reading!

Marketing for the Impulse Buy

I have a new book coming out August 1. Yay! As of right now, I haven’t even begun to devise a marketing plan. Boo.

In the past I’ve done blog tours for the releases of most of my books. I’m not sure I want to go that route this time around. It’s a lot of work and the effort doesn’t seem to net a huge number of sales. So I’ve been wracking my brain trying to come up with a different approach.

Then the other day I was shopping at Wal-Mart, picking up a few last minute things I needed for the weekend. After unloading my cart, I stepped to the little podium to wait while the cashier rang up my purchases. On the raised platform was a small bakery bag. My first thought was a previous customer had forgotten one of their purchases. I’ve done that. It sucks. But, that wasn’t the case this time. The cashier explained the item, which turned out to be three freshly baked chocolate chunk cookies, was for sale. Sure enough, I glanced down the row of check-out lanes and saw that each had one of two of these bags strategically placed right where they would tempt a customer.

Now, let me tell you, when I went into the store I had no intention of shopping for cookies. But the bag was right there. I didn’t have to hunt it down or even unload it from my cart. And those cookies looked good. And fresh baked? Well, there’s not much better than that. And then I glanced at the price. Ninety-eight cents. Less than a dollar. Less than ninety-nine cents.

Yep. You guessed it. I told the cashier to ring it up for me.

We’ve all heard of them. Impulse buys at the register. Things you weren’t planning to buy, but ones that caught your eye while waiting to check out. For me this time around, it was a triple whammy: product placement, low price, and chocolate. (And really, let’s be honest…they probably had me with the chocolate, right?)

It got me to thinking…How do I make my books an impulse buy? How do I get readers to buy my books when they weren’t planning on shopping for a contemporary romance…or perhaps they weren’t even shopping for reading material at all? In truth, I have no idea how to accomplish this. But I’m thinking this might be the focus of my marketing plan for Family Secrets.

I have one advantage already in place, in that my publisher puts new books on sale at a reduced price when they are first released. That will hopefully be enticing in a ‘the price is right’ kind of way. I’m also going to e-mail our marketing department and ask her to put my backlist on sale during that time as well. I figure it can’t hurt.

But unfortunately, after that I’m still stumped. Where in the world do I place e-books and POD books to make them an impulse buy? Where do I go to let all of those unsuspecting impulse readers know about my sale prices? The market is so inundated with reading material these days, it’s going to take something really special to stand out. What I need to do is find a way to advertise in non-traditional places. My hero is a carpenter. My heroine is a teacher. Maybe trying something related to those fields would work. If I get a solid idea, believe me, I’ll give anything a try. Especially if it means stepping outside of the box and doing something less than traditional for marketing. And whatever I come up with, I’m going to call it my ‘cookie marketing plan’.

To celebrate our Summer Solstice Bash here at ABM, if you leave a comment telling me the most unusual circumstance that made you buy a book, you’ll be placed in a drawing for a sneak peek PDF version of Family Secrets before it goes on sale August 1.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!

Debra
www.debrastjohnromance.com

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Summer Solstice Bash Guests

June 3--Julie Miller
June 10--Victoria Alexander
June 14--Sabrina Jeffries
June 19--Laura Landon
June 26--Caroline Fyffe

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April 22--Kate Bridges
May 27--Ann Lethbridge
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This Feels Like Home by Debra St. John

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