Debra Dixon's Blog, page 3
August 29, 2013
Hubby and I like to take little trips for our anniversary. We don’t always have a firm destination in mind. In fact, that detail is often up in the air until the last minute, in a process that he refers to as ‘spontaneous’ and what I call ‘indecisive’. Ultimately we hop in the convertible and tool away for a spot we haven’t been before. This year we had more problem than usual coming up with a destination. OK, to be truthful, he went through *nine* possibilities before I finally wrested the decision from him and came up with our spot this year–Eureka Springs, Arkansas.
I can imagine you scratching your heads. Let me explain. We like to go to the Ozarks with family, but couldn’t swing it this year with everyone’s schedules. So I merely suggested going further south to the Table Rock area. Doing an online search, I became intrigued by Eureka Springs. So knowing nothing more than what I’d read online, we headed off.
Nestled at the foot of the Ozark mountains, it was utterly charming. We stayed at The Crescent Hotel, built in 1886, and it came with a history filled with scandal, con men and the requisite ghosts. The entire downtown district is on the National Historic Registry. It’s filled with Victorian architecture (which I love) and unique little shops, restaurants and bars.
The history of the town was even more interesting. The area wasn’t a town at all until the ‘healing springs’ in the area made it a destination spot. There are twelve springs in the vicinity, some right in the center of town. Blue Springs, shown here is just a few miles away. It pumps 38 million gallons of water daily and no one knows exactly where the water comes from. It was considered a sacred place by the local Indian tribes centuries ago, and the Cherokee camped there on the infamous Trail of Tears. More about the town’s history can be found here: http://www.eurekasprings.com/historical/
The area is also filled with caverns, the likes of which I’ve rarely seen. One once hosted Ella Fitzgerald and Duke Ellington for a jazz concert. We took a tour through one that took forty-five minutes to walk through. It’s easy for me to get lost in time in areas like these…to imagine myself hundreds of years earlier, walking the same steps as those earliest inhabitants.
The town’s motto is “Eureka Springs. Where the misfits fit.” Which gives you a clue to the varied people we ran into during our brief stay. Alas, none of them were ghosts, although every building we visited had a haunted history.
Of course, my mind turned to plots for books. The town was so historied and peopled by such distinctive characters, it cries out for a plot of its very own. But for days all I could think of were stories suitable for contemporary romance, which I don’t write. Until I saw the springs. Ah. Now the murder and mayhem possibilities arose. My muse had finally wakened. She went into over drive when we toured the cavern. She’s dark that way.
There were a few bumps in the road, to the tune of two new tires and a power steering pump for the convertible along the way But all in all, it was a place that had me mentally vowing to return to.
Have you ever happened upon a place that speaks to you on some level? One that delights and captivates, and makes you promise to visit it again?
August 25, 2013
It has recently occurred to me that I would know practically nothing if I didn’t write books.
Like most of us, I’m ridiculously busy with family and hobbies and housework and careers. Which is where my weird need for trivia comes in. You see, I’m currently editing my final Hope Springs book, Finally Home, which is set in the Black Hills of South Dakota, while concurrently working on my first romantic suspense, which is mostly set in Colombia, South America. So the research has been coming at me fast and furious.
Here are a few of the fun facts I’ve learned in the past few days:
The poison dart frog is a member of the Dendrobatidae family. This little fellow has enough venom to kill ten full grown human beings. Or twenty…depending on which website you choose to believe.
Premarin is a drug used to alleviate symptoms in post-menopausal women. It is manufactured from pregnant mare urine. The mares are confined to stalls, with catheters installed for 6-9 months out of every year. Often their water is restricted to make their urine more potent. Thousands of unwanted foals are born to these horses annually. Personally, my head would have to be hotflashed right off my body to convince me to use this drug, especially since there is a synthetic substitute available.
Double names disappeared from the top ten listing for Spanish girls in the 1990s. In 1970 the top two girls’ names were Maria Carmen and Maria Jose. Now it is simply Maria. Hmmmm
Land value in South Dakota has increased by an average of 28% in the past year. Some of that land looks like this. I would move there in about 32 seconds if I could convince all my children to go with me.
More than 3000 people were kidnapped in Colombia in the year 2000. It would take me more than 32 seconds to move there, even though it’s beautiful and purportedly produces some of the best organically grown cocao (chocolate) beans in the world.
So there you have it…little tidbits of trivia I pick up as an author. True, I may not remember a word of it tomorrow when I’m researching the mating rituals of the honey bee or the hair styles of the 1820s, but don’t let anyone tell you romance readers don’t learn anything while enjoying their chosen genre.
How about you? Any fun facts you’ve learned recently?
August 23, 2013
Book covers. The only thing that excites a writer more than a great book cover with her name on it is a bigger-than-expected royalty check with her name on it. I had half a mind to buy my first cover painting until I found out that for one-time use the artist had been paid as much as my first advance, but be would only charge me half that for the painting itself since it was my first book.
It was a beautiful cover, but not something you’d hang in your living room, and I couldn’t afford to be that sentimental. So I framed a cover proof and hung it in my office. Did that with the first half dozen or so covers, which are now stored away somewhere. But a great book cover with my name on it is still a sight for sore, computer-strained eyes. It’s the face of my baby.
Nowadays cover art is mostly constructed on a computer using photographs and digital magic. It was so much fun this week to see how the pieces of Michele Hauf’s new book cover came together. The idea is to come up with a recognizable “look” for an author and then find ways to give each individual book its own eye-catching identity. The cover should reflect the author’s “brand” and the book’s content. With a series line like Silhouette—now Harlequin—Special Edition, the line itself is the brand, even though individual authors might will have a look, maybe even the same cover artist from book to book.
For years in single title I was a writer in search of a “look.”
This is how it’s done. The Bell Bridge Books team has put together a look that works for me. Each book cover stands alone, but my identity shows at a glance. BBB pays for the use of photographs, and the other day I happened upon a book that sports the same photo as one of mine. It took me aback, sort of like mistaking someone else at first glance for one of my kids. But then you realize it’s not your kid—your kid is much better looking—and you realize that it’s not for nothing that we all have names. Our styles and our stories are different, and readers will make the effort to find the ones they like.
Here’s a chuckle for today—a fun Buzzfeed display of “19 Book Cover Clichés.”
Speaking of books and their sequels—okay, I wasn’t, but I will—two of the books pictured in the foursome are connected by blood. THE LAST GOOD MAN is rancher Clay Keogh, whose older half-brother, Kole Kills Crow is an outlaw in some circles, but others say he’s a hero. Get YOU NEVER CAN TELL—featured through August in the Amazon Monthly Deal for $1.99—and decide for yourself.
And since YOU NEVER CAN TELL is on sale, I’ll send one of today’s randomly chosen commenting visitors an e-book download of its prequel, THE LAST GOOD MAN. Ask me anything. Tell us what you’re sick of seeing in book covers. Tell us what catches your eye. (I know, I know. We ask that every other week. We’re so insecure about our looks!) Tell us how you sort through the masses of books for sale online to find a good read.
August 20, 2013
I’m back for the day because I just can’t stay away from the awesome Riding ladies. And also I have a new release to promote. THE DARK’S MISTRESS is a vampire romance novella, and while I’ve written it for adults, I think this one actually toes the New Adult line as well because the characters are mid-20s and it has a heavy-metal/goth atmosphere.
I’m so in love with the cover for this story. I thought I’d give you a little peek into how it was created. I create all the covers for my self-published releases. I love to play around with Photoshop, though I’m no expert with the program, by any means. If you remember the cover for Malakai, I impressed myself with that one because I actually started with a picture of a man on a white linen background, cut that out, and placed against a backdrop that I’d created by melding two pictures together. Fun stuff! But a lot of work.
Lately, I’ve been leaving the tough work to the real artists. As with the cover for THE DARK’S MISTRESS. I like to find pictures at deviantart.com. This is an amazing site where artists, models, photographers post their work for sale, or for use by other artists.
Artists, especially those who use computers to enhance photographs can download and use her pictures.
With a lot of computer magic—voila!
I love how the artist changed the original model’s hair color and gave the background a very dreamy look, don’t you?
So here’s to creativity!
ps – You’re maybe thinking, Wasn’t this titled Kambriel?
Why yes, it was, but recent issues with trademark dilution have forced me to change it. The story remains the same, as does the heroine’s name.
August 15, 2013
It was the first day back to school for me yesterday. Nary a tear was shed. Well, okay maybe a few but the motivational speaker had just told a really moving anecdote. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. The day consisted mostly of a lot of sitting in meetings, but one thing that we found highly entertaining was when we were going over new school board policies. There is now a form we are required to fill out if we ever get arrested. For some reason that struck us as hilarious. One teacher wondered aloud who’d she call in such an instance. I pointed out that I wouldn’t have anyone to call because all my best friends would be with me. The meeting went downhill from there.
Obviously we all know how to stay on the right side of the law in our hometowns. But as it turns out, we could easily find ourselves behind bars if we travel to the wrong place. Get a load of some of these strange and archaic laws and ordinances on the books around the country:
In Carmel, CA, for example there is a ban on high heels. Pumps can have heels no higher than two inches, to protect the city from potential lawsuits. Never fear, however. Free high heel permits are available at City Hall.
Any plans to travel to Alabama in the near future? You might want to avoid being in the state on Sundays. As it turns out, playing cards, hunting, gaming and racing are prohibited. If discovered, you could be jailed for three months for engaging in such immoral behavior. I wonder how they feel about dancing on the Sabbath?
A bizarre North Dakota law prohibits a bar from serving beer and pretzels at the same time. In Georgia parents are forbidden from selling their children to a circus if the child is under the age of thirteen. Other activities illegal for children under twelve to perform is acrobat, wire walker, and circus rider. Apparently alligator wrestling is perfectly all right, since it isn’t specifically prohibited by this law.
Trying to pay a debt of more than twenty-five cents in pennies will land you in the slammer in Canada. Falling asleep under the hairdryer in Florida will guarantee a trip to the poky. Be very careful around the butterflies in Pacific Grove, CA because even threatening one is illegal there.
Other jaw-dropping ways to get yourself arrested are hunting for camels in Arizona, tying a giraffe to a telephone pole in Atlanta, falling asleep with your shoes on in North Dakota, or getting a fish drunk in Ohio. (There goes my plans for the weekend.)
I’m going to need to significantly edit my bucket list.
You can find out which dumb laws you have in your state by checking here:
For more crazy laws on the books, check out the link below. The article comes with animated illustrations
Which of these laws did you find the most outlandish? Have you heard of other regulations that top these?
August 14, 2013
August 13, 2013
When you travel, do you begin to imagine plot twists and sneaky characters at every turn?
We just returned from a week at a lovely resort on Chesapeake Bay, not far from Cambridge, Maryland. My husband’s company held its annual meeting there, but while the employees were busy in meetings all day I spent some time exploring the small town and the surrounding area.
My biggest surprise—jellyfish! Unbelievable numbers of them—floating like wispy, gelatinous little clouds at the surface of the water every evening and very visible along the long pier leading out into the water in front of the resort. They brought back some very unpleasant memories of jellyfish encounters in the ocean in Mexico, believe me…but also, got me thinking. Being a Midwestern gal, I’d never dreamed that there could be jellyfish that far north…and not that far from Washington DC. What a twist that could be in a romantic suspense plot, if someone planned an escape across those waters!
Or, from our trip to Ireland and England this spring, who knew that every pub and restaurant would serve “mushy peas” with fish and chips? The language, vernacular, and local culture of an area always fascinate me wherever we go. Today, with the world at our fingertips via the Internet, we can research facts in seconds. But there’s nothing quite like being there—talking to the locals, seeing how friendly a community is, picking up literature on their regional festivities and other events. The vegetation, the hidden creatures, the different sounds of the bullfrogs and the birds, all can add such verisimilitude to the small details that make a story seem real.
I would love to hear about where you live! Can you imagine a great mystery or suspense novel unfolding in your community? What are some of the unique and interesting details about life where you are?
Blessings to you all!
August 12, 2013
Backs. We’ve all got ‘em. At least I hope we do cuz if you don’t all you’re left with is your front and fronts tend to get kind of…mushy. But I digress, what I wanted to talk about specifically is back pain. It seems to be a curse of modern society. My husband’s back is chronically bad. My mother is currently experiencing some acute pain. My sister was in a serious car accident last year during which she crushed her L-3. They had to reconstruct the vertebra with cadaver bones and build a ‘cage’ around it. She’s still in a considerable amount of discomfort.
And now we arrive at my true worry: MY back. (Seriously, when is it NOT about me?) My back isn’t terrible. It’s just…stiff. Usually. Although a decade or so ago when I was going through some real back problems, a chiropractor told me I had the spine of an 80 year old. She also said that she sees that in lots of farm people. And granted, I’m not particularly nice to my back. There’s a good deal of shoveling and lifting and mowing and chopping and baling…well, you get the picture.
So my question to you is this: Do you have some magic potion for spine health? Maybe a snake elixir given to you by a traveling shaman, or some odd yoga pose where you stand on your elbow and put your heel in your ear. Anything?
And if you happen to be lying on your back with nothing to do (please note that beautiful segue!) I wanted to let you know that we’re offering a new ‘boxed set’ of some of my old favorites. If you get a chance please check it out at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00E80FT1I
Enjoy the remainder of summer…it’s slipping away fast.
August 10, 2013
I’m a dyed-in-the-wool, print on the fingertips, paper paper reader, but I’m glad I can refer you to today’s Strib online, because I particularly enjoyed “Sky’s the limit for reading outdoors.” I could be the woman in the picture except that I’m still coloring my hair and she has more coneflowers in her garden than I do. I love coneflowers. I love gardening, and I enjoy reading among the fruits of my labor. And this article might just inspire more than this particular post because I also enjoy the changing seasons. But as I said, fodder for another post.
Today this picture inspires me. In Minnesota, summer is our outdoor reading season. Some do it in the sun. I prefer doing it in the shade. We have a plethora of trees. Some do it by the water. Some doing it floating in the water. We have an abundance of serene lakes. We’re big gardeners. We get national awards for our attention to parks and protected land. The Parks and Rec Dept and its programs in my town are phenomenal. Lovely places to sit and read abound. We cherish our outdoor reading season. In the aforementioned article, Bill Ward talks about comfortable reading venues. What are your favorites?
Comfort is key. You want to be able to lose yourself. Even the names of our new readers—Kindle, Nook—suggest coziness. I’ve always been a little jealous of people who can read in the car. I can’t. I start feeling woozy almost immediately. How about you? I saw a show on one of the science channels recently about carsickness, and it made me sick just watching the experiments they were perpetrating on poor motion sickness sufferers like me. (Planes, trains and boats don’t bother me. Just cars.) Apparently has something to do with a disagreement between senses—your inner ear says you’re moving while your eyes tell you that inside the car you’re still, especially when you put your head down. So why is it that I can play co-pilot with a paper map, and I can write, but i can’t read a book? Must be my “Bleeped-up Brain.” (That’s an interesting show, too.)
So what’s a bookie to do on a road trip? We’re taking the grads to camp tomorrow, and that’s about 4 1/2 hours each way. Well, there are books on tape. They have their limitations. Sometimes the voice doesn’t work for me, but usually if I give it a few minutes, the voice disappears and the words come through.
How do you spend passenger time on a road trip? Do you listen to books on tape? Any recommendations?
So here’s my opportunity to mention that YOU NEVER CAN TELL is featured in the August Amazon Monthly Deal, e-book for $1.99, which is (says “Coupon Kathy”) an 80% discount. But I just noticed that you can listen to a scene from the Audible version for free. It’s a pretty sexy scene, too. A pillow-talk scene, which shows character and backstory and the relationship that’s developing between a contemporary Lakota warrior and the woman who wants to tell his story.
YOU NEVER CAN TELL is the sequel to THE LAST GOOD MAN. I’ll draw a name among the comments to this post and let the winner choose between the two for a download from Amazon
Janice Hougland was my winner last week.
August 6, 2013
I’m WAY behind the curve on watching movies. The last movie I saw in a theater was “Lincoln”, which I really enjoyed. I’ve been so busy writing I’ve felt like I shouldn’t take the time to indulge in a full-length movie.
I finally got to see Silver Linings Playbook and found it interesting. Since then, my husband have opted for more sophisticated fare: Kung Fu Panda and Despicable Me. I must be a child at heart because I loved both.
Now that I can be almost a real person since I’ve finished those back-to-back deadlines, I would love to hear your recommendations for what movies I should see. Must confess I’m tempted by Red 2 and, of course, Despicable Me 2. One must for me is a happy ending!
What have you seen lately?
Coming August 21!