Friday, August 31, 2007

Lights, Camera... Action!

Late Thursday afternoon, I got a phone call from a woman who said, "Hi, Terri. This is Kathryn Bursh, a reporter for Channel 10. I'd like to come by and interview you about your book."

Um... picture me speechless. (I know, I know; hard to do.)

So yesterday morning, bright and early, Kathryn and her cameraman, Tim, came by and spent a good bit of time taping me in my office, getting me to talk about Dead Girls Are Easy, and even taking me down to one of the local bookstores to get some footage there.

Later that afternoon, I got a call from the afternoon DJ for our biggest local radio stations, Mike Reeves at Q105,who'd heard about the upcoming news broadcast and wanted to play it up during rush hour drive-time. He very sneakily (and sweetly) taped our conversation before he told me it was taped, because he didn't want me to be nervous knowing I was on the air. So he did teaser lead-ins for the news, talking about how hard work can make dreams come true, and even played songs like "Don't Stop Believing" and one of my all-time favorite Rod Stewart songs, "A Reason To Believe".

And before I knew it, there I was on the 6 o'clock news. You can see the actual news story by clicking on this Channel 10 news link, then clicking "Video Story". (There's a 5 second commercial about car insurance or something you have to sit through at the beginning. Sorry, but I don't know how to get rid of that part.)

Immediately after the news he played the interview he'd taped earlier on the radio, so I got double billing in Tampa media yesterday.

My two questions after seeing the broadcast were these. "Do I really sound like that?" and "Do I really look like that?". Do we ever see or hear ourselves the way other people do?

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Nicki Styx Is In The House!

The big day has finally arrived! I went to my local Waldenbooks yesterday, and look what I found under the "What's Hot" section!

Dead Girls Are Easy has finally hit the shelves! It was a surreal moment to see it there, let me tell you. I had to rush home, grab the camera and Captain America (a/k/a my "official photographer"), and rush back for pictures.

Do I look happy or what? :)

Afterward, we had a big family dinner, complete with champagne, and I opened a really "spooky" gift that one of my dear friends sent me - it just happened to arrive right before everyone got there. Perfect timing, huh? It was a really great day, and I just had to share it.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

On Role Modeling

I had quite a day yesterday. A good friend of mine is an Education Specialist at Lowell Correctional Institution, a women's prison located about an hour and half away from where I live. About a month ago, she emailed and asked me if I'd consider giving the commencement speech at the graduation ceremony for the women who were receiving their GEDs (high school equivalency degrees).

I have to admit, my first thought was, "No way in hell!" :) I could only imagine how grim and depressing a place like that must be, and I had no desire to end up "shanked" or whatever it is that could possibly happen to little blonde 'fraidy cats like me.

But for some reason, I didn't answer my friend's email right away. I decided to think about it before delivering a knee-jerk "No".

I didn't sleep well that night. I kept thinking about what it must be like to be locked up for years and years, away from your family, away from even the most basic of things that you and I take from granted: a soft bed, eating whenever or whatever you want, wearing what you want, going to the bookstore or the mall, using your own bathroom. And even though I knew that the women at Lowell were there for a reason (thought I wasn't really sure I wanted to know what the reasons might be), I couldn't help but think about how often they must hear the word, "No". I also thought about the importance of second chances, of being treated an as individual instead of a statistic, of passing along the message that mistakes can be overcome in small ways as well as in big ones, and the importance of standing up and saying to someone (in this case 150 someones), "Congratulations! You did something worth being proud of. Go out and do it again, and again, and again! You've proven it's possible to rise above your mistakes to become better people!"

And then I thought about the importance of role modeling. Let's face it, the only role models women prisoners are going to have are other women prisoners, and some hardened guards, and some hard-working, overwhelmed teachers (like my friend Sheila). How could they rise above their mistakes if all there were to compare themselves to were people who were as flawed as they were? I guess I'm making it sound complicated, but it's not.

So what I told the women at Lowell Correctional Institute was this: we are ALL role models to someone, whether we're conscious of it or not. Our children, our friends, our family--somebody's watching, and somebody's taking in what we do. We owe it to ourselves and to those we care about to think about our actions, to learn from our mistakes, to do good in the world every chance we get. We never know how it might come back to us, or whether it'll come back to us at all, but no man (or woman) is an island. What we do affects other people, so we should do our best to make it affect them in a good way. (I actually think I said it a lot better than that, but I don't think you'd like to read a ten minute speech here in my blog, would you?)

Anyway, I did my best to practice what I preached, and overcame my racing heart, my sweaty palms and my shaky knees to stand up in front of 150 incarcerated women and say, "Congratulations! You did good! Now go forth and do some more!" I shook hands, handed out GED certificates, signed a few programs, and tried to be a good role model to some people who probably needed one.

(It was probably a good thing that my friend didn't tell me about the 16 yr. old girl in the second row who'd murdered her father until afterward.)

Who are you a role model to? What could you do to become a better one?

No need to answer... just think about it.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Back In Black

I could've said, "back in the saddle again", but black is cooler (rock on, AC/DC!). :)

Anyway, home from Alaska and back at work - I have final revisions due for book #2 by the end of August, and I just got an email from my editor saying she'd like a "couple of tweaks" on the novella I turned in last month. It's called "Ghouls Night Out", and will be included in Avon's WEDDINGS FROM HELL anthology, out early next summer.

The good news is, when I asked her if it was okay, she said, "More than okay." Woohoo!!

Oh, and for those of us who are counting down the days:

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Exposure, Northern Style

No, I haven't dropped off the face of the earth, though it kinda feels like it. I'm in Alaska, enjoying a long-awaited and much-anticipated cruise to celebrate our fifteenth anniversary. Both Internet and cellphone service is extremely spotty up here, and emails are nearly impossible! So, I thought I'd do a little blog entry while I had the chance, and hope anybody who might be looking for me will realize I'm not ignoring them. :)

It's so beautiful here. We started our trip last week with a few days in Vancouver (very cosmopolitan), then boarded our ship on Saturday. I've read my way through more books this week than I can count, eaten more than I thought possible, lazed and napped, walked until my legs ached. Yesterday I hiked part of the Chilkoot Trail and floated back in a raft, enjoying bald eagles soaring over our heads and harbor seals that were waiting for a meal of fresh salmon (it's spawning season). If you ignore the touristy side of towns like Juneau and Skagway, you can get a feel for what it must've been like before the cruise ships started coming - wild and untamed, so remote from the rest of the world.

I saw my first glacier up close this morning - the wind was cold, the air was clear, and the view was breathtaking. As I sit here typing, the view from the shipboard internet cafe shows chunks of ice floating by, stark cliffs of gray stone dotted by green and topped by white. The ice in some spots is pale blue, like the sky. I'm told we'll see whales and dolphin today, maybe a bear or an elk - we saw some whales a couple of days ago, spouting, right beside the ship.

All in all, it's been fabulous. If I can just deal with my "technology-withdrawal" for a couple more days! I'll post pictures when I get back.

Monday, August 06, 2007

How Do You Spell R-E-L-I-E-F?

I spell it G-O-O-D R-E-V-I-E-W-S.

Yes, the first "official" reviews of Dead Girls Are Easy are coming in, and to my joy and relief, there's not an "it sucks" in the bunch! :)

I won't make you read them all (though I'll give you the links wherever possible if you want to), but I WILL give you some of the highlights:

"Thrills, chills and a nice dose of humor. Leaves one hoping for a sequel." - Romantic Times Magazine

"Laugh-out-loud funny! Brings the idea of "happily-ever-after" to a whole new level." – Romance Readers At Heart

"Eerie, creepy, and utterly fascinating. This looks like the start of a very good series."– Coffee Time Romance

"A rollicking good time. Terri Garey has clearly marked herself as someone to watch."– Romance Readers Today

"A lighthearted supernatural romp. Fans of paranormal romantic satire will appreciate this amusing contemporary."– Harriet Klausner

"Slightly dark and delightfully entertaining." - Darque Reviews

The actual reviews are much longer than the little snippets I've posted here, but 'nuff said. :) I'm a happy camper.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Author Interview

Here's an author interview I just did for an online writer's group called RWAOnline. I had no idea I was so long-winded! :) If you've got a spare five minutes, pour yourself a glass of wine and learn everything about me you didn't want to know. :)

Terri, would you tell us a little about Dead Girls Are Easy?

Dead Girls Are Easy is the story of Nicki Styx, a former Goth girl who survives a near-death experience to find she’s developed a startling new ability: she can communicate with the dead. One day she’s a funky young woman with a vintage clothing business, and the next she’s a heart-attack survivor whose life is changed forever. The restless dead now sense a kindred spirit in Nicki, and when they need her help to take care of unfinished business, that wonky heart of hers is just too big to turn them away. In life, as in fiction, best laid plans ‘oft go awry, and Nicki’s plans never included becoming an unwilling “ghoulfriend” to the dead. Nicki uses humor to deal with life (and death), and feels that laughter is the best medicine, no matter how bitter the pill. Dead Girls Are Easy is dark humor with a Southern slant - the angst of a young woman on the edge, a healthy dash of sex and voodoo, a sprinkling of spookiness.

How did you come up with the idea for Dead Girls Are Easy?

I’ve always loved the idea of combining “spooky” with “funny”. Shows like The Addams Family and The Munsters, movies like Beetlejuice and The Nightmare Before Christmas, going to the The Haunted Mansion at DisneyWorld, those campy old movies like Abbott and Costello meet the Wolfman - I loved ‘em all. I believe it’s the old “whistling past the graveyard” theory - it’s easier to deal with your fears if you can laugh at them.

It was a combination of other things, as well; strange happenings in a house which my family later learned was the scene of a murder/suicide, my mother’s inexplicable near-death experience during major surgery. I’ve always been fascinated with the paranormal, and I thought, “What if someone who thought the dark side was really cool (i.e., a Goth girl) actually had to deal with ghosts and spirits on a regular basis? How would it change them? Is it possible for a self-proclaimed “bad girl” to do the right thing without assuming the missionary position?” :)

Then one day I was visiting my sister in the Atlanta area, and she took me to this funky little neighborhood called Little Five Points. L5P is the “Haight Ashbury” area of Atlanta - lots of eclectic businesses run by eclectic people, surrounded by neighborhoods of beautiful old Victorian homes. Psychedelic murals on the buildings, teenagers with blue hair chatting with chubby tourists in socks and sandals, music and incense in the air. I loved it, and thought, “What a great setting for a novel!”

What was it about your book that made your editor want to buy it?

I think what most editors are looking for is books with interesting, memorable characters, and an author with a strong voice. A good editor can help fix a weak plot, but strong writing and strong characters are crucial.

What was the most difficult aspect of writing Dead Girls Are Easy?

In the beginning, it was making sure I had a perfect blend of romance, humor and spookiness. In the end, it was taking one book and turning it into two, which meant I had to come up with a completely new ending for book one, Dead Girls Are Easy, and both a new beginning and new ending for book two, Where The Ghouls Are. Talk about pulling your hair out!

How much research did you conduct for Dead Girls Are Easy and what was the most interesting thing you did while conducting your research?

I did a great deal of research, particularly into the Voodoo aspect of the story. Voodoo is an extremely secretive and complex religion, and I wanted my facts straight. I didn’t want to fall back onto clich├ęs like “sticking pins into Voodoo dolls” and “brain-eating zombies”. I wasn’t writing fantasy, after all - one of the main themes of the book is how someone goes from living an “ordinary” life into dealing with the “extraordinary”, and I wanted to keep it realistic. Well, as realistic as the idea of seeing and speaking to the dead could actually be.

The most interesting thing that happened was when I was doing research on book two, Where The Ghouls Are. Most of that book takes place Savannah, otherwise known as the “Most Haunted City in America”. My husband and I decided to travel there and stay in an 1810 townhouse in the historic district that was rumored to be haunted. Let’s just say that when we left there three days later, we were both absolutely convinced that it was! Several strange things happened, including finding a bottle balanced upside-down in the middle of the coffee table, a doorbell that rang when there was no one there but wouldn’t ring if you tried it yourself, and strange messages on the answering machine though the phone never rang. Even though it was a beautiful place, we will not be going back!

What is your process for writing a book? For example, are you a plotter or a pantzer? Do you start at page 1 and write your book sequentially or do you skip around? Do you start with your characters or the plot?

I’m a mix of the two. I start out with an idea, flesh out the main characters in my mind, plan the opening, and I’m off to the races. I have to stop every few chapters and do some plotting, but I don’t generally plot too far ahead unless I’m on a roll. It’s amazing how things eventually fall into place, but it’s never an easy process, and I’ve certainly done my share of rewrites!

Do you use any techniques, tools, or aids to help you write?

When I’m in the planning stages of a novel, I like to make a small collage using images and phrases that capture the idea of what I’m going for. Nothing big, just 8.5” x 11”, which I then post right beside my computer monitor. I also use a fresh, new yellow pad for every novel, jotting down thoughts, phrases, bits of dialogue, scene sequences, etc. There’s no order to it, just pages of stuff. Finally, when I’m doing my research on a particular area (Tarot cards, Ouija boards, fashion, whatever) - I print out specific facts and figures that I’ve found useful during the course of that research, highlight in yellow, and keep them in a folder so I can refer to them anytime I need them.

How do you make time to write?

I’m very lucky in that I left my full-time job as a computer analyst several years ago, and now have a full-time job doing something I love, which is writing. I spend as much time as possible at my desk, researching and writing.

When you are writing, who is in control? You or your characters?

LOL It’s easy to say that your characters are in control, but mine aren’t. These people exist only inside my head - they’re not guiding my fingers on the keyboard. What IS true is that if you’ve done a good enough job creating those characters, you’re not going to have them doing something that is totally out of character. For instance, Nicki Styx is a bit snarky, but she’s also a good person, so I would never have her doing something deliberately hurtful. Her love interest, Joe Bascombe, is a doctor and a skeptic, so I would never have him behave in a gullible way. In that sense (and that sense only), the characters are in control, but I’m the one who directs their actions and reactions.

Who has had the most influence on your writing?

That’s tough to say. I’ve always been an avid reader, and every time I’ve read a fabulous book I wanted to be able to do just what that particular author did (meaning, write a fabulous book!). I owe Charles Dickens a debt of gratitude for writing David Copperfield and sucking me into reading when I was young, Kathleen Woodiwiss for writing the first romance I ever read (The Wolf and the Dove), Stephen King for sharing his knowledge that writing takes perseverance, Georgette Heyer for writing so beautifully, Anne Rice for keeping me up at night. I still read widely, on a variety of topics, and it’s hard to pick just one person.

Have you had any "ah ha" moments as a writer?

The “ah ha” moments for me usually occur when I’ve been stuck on a particular plot point, and I suddenly see my way clear on how to fix it. Those moments are golden! They make everything else pale in comparison. I’ve had other “ah ha” moments about the industry itself - it’s often so difficult to find out specifics in this business, that when somebody finally explains something to you and you really get it, it’s a gift. When something you’ve considered muddy finally becomes clear, that’s a great “ah ha” moment.

What advice do you have for other writers?

Don’t give up. Learn to take criticism. Learn to deal with rejection in a positive manner. Know when it’s time to leave one manuscript behind and begin another. Improve your craft by joining critique groups, entering and judging contests, and learning your weak points so you can turn them into strengths. And did I mention, don’t give up?

Would you tell us your story of getting "the call?"

It was Wednesday, October 12th, 2005, at 4:13pm. Ah… have sweeter words ever been written?

I was at home, sitting at my desk, expecting a call from my agent and trying not to jump out of my skin every time the phone rang. (And failing miserably, by the way.) I knew that she’d submitted Dead Girls Are Easy to Erika Tsang at Avon in late September, and that Erika had requested a three-week exclusive. The three weeks were almost up, and I was nervous as a cat!

My husband just happened to be home early that day. He claimed he just felt like leaving early, but I think he was just as nervous as I was while waiting for that phone call. My teenage son was home, too, so he got an earful… I don’t think he’d ever heard Mom squeal like that before! The three of us went out to dinner at one of our favorite local restaurants. I spent the rest of the evening “cyber-partying” with my online writing pals.

I’d like to add, though, that none of this would’ve happened if it weren’t for some wonderful people who gave me advice and encouragement along the way. One of those people was romantic suspense author Mariah Stewart, who just happened to judge an earlier manuscript in a contest. She offered me the best advice I ever took, which was to find an agent immediately, and go straight to the top when starting my search. She recommended several editors and agents to query, including the Jane Rotrosen Agency. This advice was repeated again by the wonderful Madeline Hunter, who writes some of the best historicals I’ve ever read, and who was also a contest judge. Claire Delacroix has been incredibly generous with industry advice, and never made me feel stupid when asking. These women took the time to encourage an aspiring new writer, and advised me to aim high. I queried Annelise Robey at Rotrosen and received a request for the full of my historical. When she rejected it, I didn’t let that stop me - I was on a mission! I turned around and queried her again about my current project, Dead Girls Are Easy, and received another request for a partial, then another full. Lo and behold, perseverance paid off.

What was the most exciting thing that happened to you after you signed your contract – besides receiving your first check as a published author?

Seeing my cover for the first time. It didn’t seem real until I saw my name on the cover of an actual book!

If you weren't writing, what would you be doing?

Going nuts. :) I need to have a purpose, and while I love to garden and volunteer, I want to feel like I’m truly accomplishing something that I can look back on when I’m old and say, “I did that!”.

How does your family feel about your career as a romance writer?

My husband is my biggest supporter, and is immensely proud of me. My children think it’s great, and my three sisters do, too, but I don’t think they’ll really understand how exciting it all is until they see my books on the shelves.

What are you doing to promote your book?

I have a website and blog. I’m active on several forum boards, notably RWAOnline and Avon Authors . I do guest blogging at a variety of sites, write and distribute articles for multiple RWA chapter newsletters, have had bookmarks and buttons printed, attend conferences, and have some additional print advertising planned. There’s probably more, but mostly I’m just keeping my fingers crossed that what I’ve done so far will pay off.

What support are you receiving from your publisher?

Avon has been fabulous. They’ve taken out an ad in Romantic Times, sent ARCS to all the major reviewer sites, given me promotional materials to use at conferences and booksignings, and held special workshops designed to help me help them market my books. And they gave me a great cover. I love that about them.

What books can we expect to see in the near future?

The sequel to Dead Girls Are Easy is entitled Where The Ghouls Are, and will be released the summer of 2008. I’m working on book #3, If You Got It, Haunt It, and am hopeful there will be a fourth in this series, maybe more. I’m also participating in an anthology that will be out next summer, entitled Weddings From Hell, which will include other novellas by Maggie Shayne, Kathryn Smith and Jeaniene Frost.

Thursday, August 02, 2007