Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Daily Dose Holiday Giveaway: Mini-Me Picks

Today is my Mini-Me's tenth birthday. Ten years. So hard to believe.  Her birthday is, of course, one of our favorite parts of the holiday season.  So in honor of her birthday, today's Daily Dose Holiday Giveaway is two very special books that mark the beginning of two of her favorite series.

The Summoning (Darkest Powers, Book 1)
The Summoning
The Summoning (The Darkest Powers, Book 1 by Kelley Armstrong)

Mini me loves it. The Summoning is about a girl named Chloe Saunders who was going to acting school, but as it turns out she is a necromancer who can see the dead, contact the dead and accidentally raises the dead.  Before she can figure out what is happening, she is sent to Lyle House where she befriends other teens.  One of them is Simon.  Simon shows her that he is a sorcerer.  Simon's foster brother Derek has super strength.  Tori is a little on edge because her best friend was taken away. She and Chloe don't get along at first, but they eventually become friends. 

The story is funny, scary and full of drama.  It's at the top of her must-read list.

The Summoning is the first of a trilogy of novels following Chloe Saunders including:

The Awakening
The Reckoning

Oh. My. Gods.
Oh My Gods!
Oh My Gods! By Tera Lynn Childs

Meet Phoebe, a girl who seems to be a descendant of the Greek gods even though she doesn't know it.  Her dad died and her mom planned to marry a Greek man named Damien.  Phoebe and her mother move to Greece to Damien's island school on Serfopoula where she meets his daughter, Stella.  Stella and Phoebe do not always get along, but when Phoebe starts attending the island's academy she bonds with Nicole and Troy.

The story is funny, dramatic and a good time.  It's not scary though, but she laughed a lot all the way through it.

Tera Lynn Childs wrote a second novel in this series entitled Goddess Boot Camp.

The Happy Birthday Daily Dose Holiday Giveaway

in honor of the mini-me's tenth birthday, we are offering a copy of The Summoning by Kelley Armstrong and Oh My Gods by Tera Lynn Childs to the reader of your choice.

Now for the rules:

Holiday Giveaway Rules

For a chance to win:

1. Nominate the person you want to send that day’s gift to and a short reason as to why.
2. For an extra entry, spread the word about this giveaway: Blog, Facebook, Twitter, etc. - leave a link in the comments.
3. Leave your email with your comment ONLY IF it is NOT part of your profile.
4. This giveaway is open to everyone for nominations, however you cannot enter yourself.
5. You may only win one gift to send.
6. Giveaways begin November 28 and run through December 21.

Don't forget The Vampire Diaries giveaway is open until tomorrow, December 1st at midnight.  The Mini-Me's holiday giveaway will be open until Friday December 3rd with the winner drawn on December 4th!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Daily Dose Holiday Giveaway

Welcome to our first giveaway of the Daily Dose Holiday Giveaway season! We were supposed to kick this off on Black Friday, so many apologies for not getting this fired off today. We've got a lot of authors, prizes and more just for you and yours. If you're not familiar with how the holiday giveaway works, I've got the rules posted at the bottom and will post them at the end of each giveaway!
The Vampire Diaries: The Complete First Season

The Vampire Diaries

As anyone who reads this blog knows, I am a huge fan of The Vampire Diaries, so I thought it only appropriate to kick off the giveaway with not one, but two copies of the first season of this fantastic show. If you know someone who loves the series and would enjoy spending time in Mystic Falls, this is the gift package for you.

Season One introduces you to Stefan and Damon Salvatore, two vampire brothers returning to their hometown and falling in love with a girl who looks exactly like the vampire that turned them in 1864. The series offers romance, adventure, mystery and several surprising twists and turns.

Because we're kicking this off to a late start, this giveaway will be open for three days beginning today, November 28th and ending at midnight on December 1st. But don't worry, I'll be posting more giveaways each day, just pay attention to the dates on when they close.

All you have to do is nominate someone that you think deserves to receive this present and why, you don't have to share their contact information, but you do need to make sure that I can get ahold of you. All nominations will be drawn on the 1st and I'll announce the giveaways privately (this protects your gift giving ability too!) When I get in touch, you let me know who to send it too and what holiday message you want included. Not every gift is available for overseas shipping, these DVDs are Region 1, so that's a good note to remember!

Now for the rules, as promised:

Holiday Giveaway Rules

For a chance to win:

1. Nominate the person you want to send that day’s gift to and a short reason as to why.
2. For an extra entry, spread the word about this giveaway: Blog, Facebook, Twitter, etc. - leave a link in the comments.
3. Leave your email with your comment ONLY IF it is NOT part of your profile.
4. This giveaway is open to everyone for nominations, however you cannot enter yourself.
5. You may only win one gift to send.
6. Giveaways begin November 28 and run through December 21.

Who would you like to share The Vampire Diaries with?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Romancing the Food

I like to think of myself as a foodie. I love to cook, try new foods, take cooking classes and collect cookbooks. It’s something that my husband and I share and are trying to pass down to our young sons.

The week of Thanksgiving is the start of the holiday season in our household. We get out the decorations, get the Christmas music primed and ready to play almost continuously for the weeks to come, my husband gets his favorite microbrew that only released during the month of November, and I get out all my favorite holiday recipes. I always add some new ones too. Something about this time makes me want to cook big family meals. Slow, hearty meals with lots of fresh ingredients that require attention and love put in to make it come out right. It’s a comforting tradition for me, and one way that I show love to my friends and family.

This season I’ve added something else to my holiday contemplation: a new character for an as-of-now-unplotted romantic suspense. My heroine is a personal chef that specializes in romantic dinners. So, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about romantic meals and what that means. I’ve been reminiscing about some that my husband and I have shared over the years either at restaurants or that we have cooked for each other.

Several were romantic because it was just the two of us, pre-kids, for special occasions like anniversaries. One that stands out is a special night out at a restaurant in New Orleans – Delmonico, where we shared the chef’s tasting menu. It was a six-course meal that began with black pepper seared yellowfin tuna topped with beluga and salmon caviar with a recommended wine and ended several hours later with the last course of chocolate raspberry pot de crème. It remains the best meal we have ever enjoyed. We keep trying to top it, but so far it hasn’t happened.

The food was wonderful, but it was only part of the romance. It would have just been another meal if not for the emotion surrounding the evening. We were celebrating a graduation, we were excited about starting a new chapter in our lives and the ambiance and set-up of the meal brought much of that into focus. Food plus feeling (like, love, caring) equals romance.

Another romantic meal was one that my husband made for me when I returned from being out of the country for a month. It was a delicious crawfish fettuccine alfredo. I’ll never forget it. Not the taste of it, not what we had with it, but the romance of it. The romance was in the thought and care, time and attention that he put into making something special for me.

I would love to know what your most romantic meal was and why. Was it the food, the drink, the company or the setting? I need some different perspectives on what makes a meal romantic. My character is going to have a lot of cooking to do! She’s going to have to show the hardened don’t-believe-in-love war hero who is protecting her that there is room for romance in everything. Even just eating a meal.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Thankful for Readers

I have spent a lot of time, sharing what I love in this blog whether it’s an author, a television show, a character or even a piece of music. As we prepare for Thanksgiving this week, I wanted to take a moment to thank some very special people in my life: the readers.

Books that Bite

At my local bookstore there is a terrific group of readers who meet twice a month, they call themselves the Books that Bite Bookclub. This is a fantastic group of women (and some men) who enjoy paranormals and share that love with every book they read, recommend or discuss. I was very fortunate to be invited to visit their group last June and I’ve just never left.

The group is comprised of a wide variety of people, some who were friends before the bookclub and others who became friends because of the book club. They’ve introduced me to a wonderful group of authors, some I’d intended to read and others I might not have without their endorsement. They have always made me feel welcome and I truly enjoy them. From the crazy comments to the desire to read the last chapter, each and every one of these women (and some men) holds a special place in my heart.

Readers ‘n’ Ritas

Last week, I attended the second annual Readers ‘n’ Ritas conference. The atmosphere was cheerful, fun and relaxed. It was a chance for readers to hang out with some of their favorite authors from Sherrilyn Kenyon to Diana Love to Dakota Cassidy to Michele Bardsley, Louisa Edwards, Laura Griffin, Nikki Duncan and more. I met authors I’d not been introduced to previously, notably Ann Agguire, Jade Lee (she’s a total riot!) Sharon Ashwood and Mari Mancusi. I picked up lots of new books and book recommendations for my mini-me and I met even more fabulous readers both locally and from across the nation.

One stand out couple was celebrating their wedding anniversary for the conference. Still others drove in from Colorado or flew in from Virginia, Wisconsin, Minnesota and more. It was a weekend populated with laughter, good books and great conversation.

So today, I am thankful for all the readers in my life: Amber, Patti, Lisa, Linda, Lynn, Heather, Kristi, Jeannie and so many more than I can list here. One of the reasons I write, is for all of you who do read and it’s important to remember just how much I enjoy knowing all of you.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Good Guys and the Stache

One of my favorite new TV series this season is The Good Guys starring Colin Hanks as the clean-cut college boy cop, Jack Bailey, and my hero, Bradley Whitford as the has-been detective, Dan Stark. Of course I’m not sure who makes a bigger statement, Dan or his furry mustache which seems to have a role of its own on the show.

The endless mustache humor that may get lost on some, is totally appreciated by others. Maybe it’s because we grew up with the sexy macho stache. Tom Selleck was the sexiest man alive in the 80’s--women coveted his hairy lip and hairy chest. Yet today, that same image which drove women to their knees, now makes us laugh, turn up our lip and say, ‘eww’. The macho men of the 21st century not only shave their face, but their entire head, their chests and other parts as well. The only acceptable hair seems to be in the form of a goatee or soul patch. And although I would NEVER say, ‘ewwe’ to Tom, I can’t help but notice, even he has stepped away from his classic stache toward a modernized version with a goatee.

But what would we do in life without characters like Dan Stark? Dan who lives in the past, bungles through the present, and doesn’t give a rat’s ass what’s going to happen in the future. Dan who has natural instincts about crime and criminals but doesn’t have a clue as to what’s acceptable socially. Dan who gets the bad guy at all cost, without an understanding for rules and regulations that can make the job easier, or sometimes harder.

I’ve known a few Dan’s on the police department throughout the years. In fact, when I transferred to day shift, I was the only officer in my sector without one. Of course I was the only one boobs too. At first those crusty guys treated me like I had a venereal disease they could catch if they even looked in my direction. But after a while they warmed up and asked me to join them for Sunday breakfast at the New G and E Diner, which was far from new. I was honored, little did I know they invited me so I’d quit pulling them away from their biscuits and gravy to back me up a car check.

One stache in particular, stood out in the crowd. A small man, maybe shorter than me, who smoked everywhere he went. His uniform ill-fitting, his voice gravely, his humor raunchy and his manner unorthodox. He was the luckiest little leprechaun you ever saw. But he was also the best damn cop I ever met. He taught me more in the years we worked together than I could possibly say. And he has arrested more felons in Kansas City than any other cop. He’s respected on the streets by all generations and to this day, the felons know they can’t escape Tom.

So the stache on The Good Guys brings back a lot of nostalgia for me. Not just the heart throb of my twenties, but the mentor in my thirties. I see a little of me in Jack Bailey and a lot of Tom in Dan Stark’s mustache.

What stache stands out for you in your life? Is it a Tom Selleck or a local Tom who impacted who you are today? Was it a hot fuzzy kiss, or a fur-ball you couldn’t hack up? A guy who wow’d you with his knowledge or a guy who made you want to wipe that stache off with duct tape because of his filthy mouth? Did it go with a mouth-watering body of the Hawaiian gods, or barfing butt cleavage?

Let me know your experience with the stache, good or bad, I bet you have a story to tell!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

NaNoWriMo: Even More Q&A with Dr. Reade Quinton, M.E.

Crime fiction often features crime scenes, investigations and autopsies. Learn more about the reality of it so you can write it fresher, bigger and more in depth in your own books. Don't think this information is limited to just crime scenes, however, think about it: if your werewolf or vampire doesn't want to be detected, this is good information for he or she to know. Working on an intrigue or a romantic suspense? You may not need to show all the gritty details, but you will want to know what could happen if it's important to your story.

Q&A with Dr. Reade Quinton

11. Reasons why an autopsy is important:

In the forensic setting, the most important reason for performing the autopsy is to determine cause and manner of death. We also identify remains, collect evidence, identify infectious disease or hereditary conditions, etc. While hospital autopsies (non-forensic) do not do these things, they focus more on identification of disease, hereditary conditions, extent of disease (how far a cancer has spread), efficacy of treatment, quality assurance for the hospital, and teaching for medical students and residents.

12. How can I get a copy of the autopsy report?

In the state of Texas, autopsy reports are public record. You can request a report from the ME office for a small fee.

13. How often do you have to testify?

Usually about twice a month, but sometimes there are multiple trials in the same week.

14. How do you prepare for testifying?

I typically review the case file (mostly the autopsy report and scene investigation) and the associated photos and diagrams. We often sit down with the prosecution to review the case prior to trial, and occasionally meet with defense. Defense rarely asks, but we are just as willing to talk to them.

15. How do you determine time of death?

Unlike television, we can only provide rough estimates: within a few hours, within the last day, 2-3 days, weeks to months…We base this on temperature (is the body warm or cool?), rigor mortis, livor mortis, and decompositional change (bloating, skin discoloration, insect activity). Rates vary highly based on the environment (in a hot car, in an air conditioned apartment, in the woods).

16. Can you explain the various types of rigor (inappropriate, involuntary) and what they mean to an investigation?

I am not familiar with these terms as described here. It is “appropriate” that at some point all dead people go into rigor and eventually lose their rigor. “Inappropriate” may be addressing the position of the body in relation to the rigor. If a body is in a seated position, they will be in full rigor in that position. Move the body at that point to the bed or floor, and their rigor is “inappropriate” because it reflects a curled seated position. All rigor is “involuntary,” meaning that if it was voluntary it would be “willed” by a live person, which is impossible (except in fiction…)

17. What is the toughest cause of death to determine?

This is a tough question, but I would have to go with many asphyxial deaths like smothering. Unlike TV, you will not see pillow fibers in the airway, etc. A smothered body often times has no findings or non-specific findings. Often times these cases are determined almost exclusively by interviews and scene investigation.

18. Do you use casts for dental or weapon impressions?

Yes, occasionally for both. A forensic odontologist assists us with dental impressions. Our firearms and toolmark analysis team deals with toolmarks from knives, etc.

19. Do any forensic shows get it right?

We are more like “Scrubs” than “CSI.” Almost every show will overshoot plausibility at some point (otherwise it wouldn’t be interesting). Not even the “true” television shows like Dr. G are completely accurate.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

NaNoWriMo: More Q&A with Dr. Reade Quinton, M.E.

More indepth questions and answers with Medical Examiner Dr. Reade Quinton. The following information is great for first time or long-time writers. If you're looking for a nugget of authenticity or just want to clear up some misconceptions, check out today's Q&A with more tomorrow! Keep on writing NaNoWriMos!

Q&A with Dr. Reade Quinton

7. What is Texas law with regard to autopsy? Are all unattended deaths investigated? What about attended deaths?

The following deaths are considered medical examiner jurisdiction:
- Unexpected or unexplained deaths
- Death in the workplace
- Death within 24 hours of admission to the hospital
- Death within 24 hours of surgery
- All deaths under the age of 6
- Any death that is non-natural (accidents, homicide, suicide)
- Any death in police custody

While it is expected that these be reported to the ME, they may not all get autopsies. For instance, an 80 year old man who dies at home is technically an unattended death that must be reported, but we may not do an autopsy if medical records are sufficient. If the decedent is in the hospital under the care of a physician and dies of natural causes, then it is NOT considered a medical examiner case.

8. What is a forensic autopsy?

The forensic autopsy consists of the external examination, internal examination, toxicology, ancillary studies as needed, and generation of the autopsy report. The external examination includes photographs of the body and injuries, collection of evidence, listing clothing and personal effects, identifying marks and scars, identifying evidence of treatment, and documentation of natural disease or evidence of injury. This portion of the exam may also include identification of remains. The internal examination consists of removing the organs (including the brain) and identifying disease and or trauma. Toxicology is typically performed on blood, urine, vitreous fluid, and skeletal muscle.

9. Do you travel to crime scenes at all?

In some offices, the medical examiner attends all of the scenes. In larger offices, the scene investigators go and document the scene and story. I rarely go myself, unless there is an extremely high profile situation. Even then, it would probably be the chief who would go out.

10. When is the autopsy done?

It varies with the office, but ours start at 7:00 AM and we usually stop around 3:00 PM. Anything that comes in that afternoon or night is held until 7:00 the following morning. We work every day of the year, including major holidays! Some offices may shut down on Sundays or major holidays, but large offices have too much volume.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Kismet or a Great Ending to a Crappy Day

I’m sorting through three heroes and three heroines bouncing between three stories in my head. It’s more than a little exciting to have my brain working like a writer again. “Lovin’ it!” actually.

A week ago, I was traveling in California and had an experience that I’ve always wanted. I met one of my heroes. Woo Hoo.

While writing .38 Caliber Cover-Up, I introduced a character who was very elusive to me. He didn’t have a name, didn’t have a face (in my head) and I couldn’t describe him. Okay, he was a little more than elusive...he was downright mean about not showing me anything about his looks. All I had was a troubled soul.

Meeting the hero of this proposal was a series of coincidences. A lot of things happened to line up our introduction. My husband had a crisis at work, it delayed our travel, we missed a lunch date delaying dinner. That might not mean much, but a later dinner meant cooler weather and us eating inside a restaurant instead of on the patio.

The next series of events had nothing to do with us at all. A waitress misunderstood what time she was to begin her shift and no one could cover the restaurant, so we had to order in the bar where we had a very good view of the last game of the American League championship (Rangers vs. Yankees)--so we stayed seated at the actual bar.

I noticed something about our bartender very quickly. Each person who came into the bar, he introduced himself, addressed each person by their name. I won’t dwell on how cute he is. His personality dominated the room. He had visitors talking, discovering that several of us were from the same area. We definitely enjoyed the game.

And then it hit me...I needed this guy’s picture. HE was my elusive hero. I received permission to use his actual name. We exchanged emails.

Coincidence or fate? I don’t know. The end of a great day? You betcha! The day that began running behind and missing lunch with my agent (worked out with a later meeting), ended with one of my characters posing and becoming completely embarrassed as he said, “No one’s ever wanted to use my face before.”

Two questions for you today.

Question one: Take a wild guess what his name is? Clues: it’s unusual and hero-perfect.

Question two: Ever had a bad day that turned into serendipitous kismet?

Anyone leaving a comment will be placed into a drawing for a free book (not mine). I have several new books to choose from.

NaNoWriMo: Q&A with Dr. Reade Quinton, M.E.

Last month it was my pleasure to attend a local chapter meeting featuring medical examiner and forensic pathologist Dr. Reade Quinton. He answered a lot of questions, provided a great presentation and offered some insights into what you might need to know as an author if you deal with bodies, murder and autopsy. For your NaNo writing pleasure. I'm going to share some of his Q/A's this week and insights. So be sure to check back each day for more NaNo writing tips, information and more.

Q&A with Dr. Reade Quinton

1. If there is a murder, is there automatically an autopsy, even if cause of death is obvious?

The answer should be yes, but it depends on the jurisdiction and the office. As a rule, most medical examiners would autopsy every homicide, even if the death is obvious (decapitation, etc.). It is not unheard of to do partial autopsies (head only, to retrieve a projectile), but I would consider it poor form.

2. If it was discovered the person was pregnant, is this info released?

The information is released on the death certificate, which is public record. However, the person filling out the death certificate might forget to do so (or intentionally withhold it?) and it could slip by.

3. In small TX towns, where is a body taken? Say like in a town similar to Granbury?

Small Texas towns that do not have the budget for a medical examiner rely on the local Justice of the Peace to determine cause and manner of death. The JP would decide if an autopsy was needed, and if so, who will do it. Most counties send their bodies to the nearest medical examiner office (the Dallas office covers 65 counties), but some areas employ private pathologists to perform the autopsy at the funeral home, etc. These private pathologists vary widely in their training and experience…

4. What law gives authority to a medical examiner to order an autopsy?

Article 49.25 (Medical Examiners) of the Texas code of Criminal Procedures

5. Who pays for this autopsy?

The taxpayers of that county.