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More pictures from Europe. Today's visit: Luxembourg - where my mom's family hails from.
Curt with my cousin Will.
Will drove us just about everywhere in Luxembourg all day. He's 85 years old and incredibly generous with his time and knowledge. By the end of the day Curt and I were dozing in the car. Willy never slowed down.
One of many, many WWII memorials. This one for the Battle of the Bulge. Incidentally, one of Curt's uncles lost his life there on Christmas, 1944. From what we could tell, Luxembourg loves America.
In Wiltz - the house (much remodeled) where my grandmother and one of my uncles were born.
My great-grandmother, Catherine Schumacher-Minden, along with everyone else listed on this memorial, was killed by the Nazis when their cave hideout was discovered. Look at some of the ages 6 mois - 6 months, 2 semaines - 2 weeks. I remembered hearing these stories from my mom who'd heard them from her mother, but to see this in person just brought it all home.
A memorial where a school once stood. The Nazis killed two teachers here, in front of students. We'd just missed the anniversary, but you can see by the flowers that even now, so many decades later, those who died have not been forgotten.
The Old City. (My header at the top of this blog is also from the Old City. It's gorgeous!)
My favorite part of the visit to Luxembourg - getting to know my family. Clockwise from the front, left:
Yesterday I mentioned that I would be blogging on Killer Characters today and that I was running a contest. One lucky commenter at that blog will win a $10 bookstore gift certificate. Well, today's the day!
Tomorrow is the 18th and I'm wresting control of Killer Characters out of the hands of the Marshfield gang to announce a contest. One lucky commenter on the Killer Characters' site will win a $10 bookstore gift certificate.
So, pop on over there and see what the blog is all about. Leave a comment and be entered.
I had the best time up in Muskego. Thank you to the wonderful Penny Halle, Ruth and Jon Jordan, and all the people who make this event possible. I was particularly thrilled to see Kim and Dave and Michelle again and to meet Mary F. for the first time.
Loved being able to connect again with so many friends and meet new ones, as well. What a fun crowd!
By the way, my publicist, Dana Kaye absolutely rocks. She was updating me throughout the weekend on how some promotional ventures were progressing. She's just so cool and I love her to pieces.
There was one cozy panel - featuring Denise Swanson, Shirley Damsgaard, Joanna Campbell-Slan, Deb Baker (Hannah Reed) and me. Last year we'd roped the handsome and studly Tom Shreck as our moderator and we were thrilled he agreed to come back for a repeat performance. He's great. A perfect foil for all of us, funny, witty, and very quick with the comebacks. Loved it.
We had so much fun and got a lot of laughs. Love these ladies (and Tom)!
Thanks for all the posts re: my Cozy Mystery question! It's so great to know these books have so much support from readers (and every cozy mystery author I know is a cozy reader, too!).
Speaking of cozies, I'll be on a mystery panel in about two hours - at Murder and Mayhem in Muskego - with authors Deb Baker, Denise Swanson, Joanna Campbell Slan, and Shirley Damsgaard, talking about our books and why we write them.
Remember not all that long ago I talked about the Star Trek convention and how I won the Trivia Challenge?
Well now (just in case you doubted the story) I have proof!
A lovely woman named Tammy was in the audience and snapped this picture which she just emailed to me:
That's me, just right of center, wearing a pink shirt (never a red shirt!! LOL) and a black sweater. Plus, I'm the only person holding up "NO."
I'm adding a second shot here, slightly zoomed in. Check out my very thoughtful expression. At that moment I was thinking, "No... his name is Porthos!"
Woo-hoo! Thanks for sending this, Tammy!
There's a PS to all this: I decided to send Tammy a copy of Grace Under Pressure as a thank you for sending this photo to me and guess what? She lives and works in a town/business called Marshfield. Just like Marshfield Manor in the book.
I did it. Finally, right? I put three of my out-of-print novels up on Kindle. They've been on Smashwords/nook/Sony/etc. for a couple of months, but not on Kindle. Until now.
If you know of anyone who owns a Kindle or who reads books on devices supported by that platform, and they like mysteries, I would appreciate you sharing the following links. Below are are my three first novels - originally published in hardcover. Eventually I hope to put some short stories up, too!
Artistic License (my first novel, ever!) - this is a standalone romantic suspense, btw.
After five years in a bad marriage, Annie Callaghan filed for divorce, quit her job, and began to pursue her dream of becoming an artist. But in the process, she made one very big mistake. As she tries her best to get her life back together with the help of an attractive widower, she inadvertently puts events into motion that draw her into a conspiracy involving a stolen masterpiece and murder.
First in the Alex St. James Mystery series. Chicago news researcher Alex St. James is preparing to interview a young Polish immigrant - pregnant by a Catholic priest - when the woman is found murdered. Alex investigates, making enemies of powerful people in the Chicago Archdiocese. Unless she backs away from the story, the next thing Alex might hear are her own Last Rites
Second in the Alex St. James series. Reeling from public humiliation by a former lover, Alex St. James comes home to find that her neighbor has been murdered. Drawn into the investigation, Alex uncovers a shocking secret buried long ago. Determined to untangle the web of duplicity spun by those around her, Alex must face down the killer, a formidable foe with a Deadly Interest in her future.
In a prior post I mentioned that my husband and I climbed to the top of nearly every monument we visited on our European trip. By the time we got to the Duomo in Florence, I was starting to get very dizzy on circular staircases. Here's one from the Tower of London, below.
I don't know about you, but here, on my first trip to Europe, when the guide book said "Tower of London" I expected a huge tower. Like the one where you find Big Ben. Like the two from London Bridge (which was, incidentally, not falling down).
But the Tower of London is a former "keep" and -- if I'm remembering correctly -- this is the place William the Conquerer established for the monarchy to reside. Back in oh, about 1066, I think.
I loved this place, and we did climb to the top of the White Tower, the central structure of the keep.
This was only about four stories, so this was not one of our marathon climbs. But I wanted to talk about it today because our visit there was fascinating. I have about fifty pictures from this visit alone. I want to include them all, but time and space are holding me back. For now, just a few highlights (more to come):
The former moat. I guess it was a great moat for many years, until progress and other changes turned it into a sewer. (Sounds like the Chicago River these days.) Not such a happy place to keep a fortress at that point, so it was eventually drained and grassed in.
Isn't this gorgeous? This is the chapel inside the Tower of London. Some period movies were filmed here. Can't you just see Henry the Eighth striding to his seat? Can't you see a suspicious character eavesdropping from behind one of those pillars?
Those blue doors are painted in Victoria Blue and that residence (note the guard) is where the queen sleeps if she ever chooses to stay overnight at the Tower of London. From what we gathered, she doesn't visit often.
The grassy area above - and one directly opposite, not pictured - are where you could be beheaded, but only if you were very special. Anne Boleyn was beheaded here. As was Catherine Howard and Anne's sister, Jane Boleyn. Now, if you were just a regular, garden-variety beheadee, you were required to suffer your fate in town, in front of a sea of spectators.
This area was reserved for only the closest of the king's friends.
Oh, how lucky they must have felt!
Anybody looking for a knight in shining armor? I found one!
I'd been writing, well, forever. Pretty much since I knew how to craft letters with a pencil. I loved books, loved stories, and couldn't wait to tell some of my own. But for all of you who love to tell stories, you know: Writing isn't the tough part. Submitting is. And rejection can be even worse.
Flash forward to the year 1999. I finally worked up the nerve to submit a short story to Strange New Worlds. It was an annual contest and I'd read the prior volumes, amazed by the stories I found there. Even better, there was an AOL group (remember those?) that chitchatted about how to enter, what mistakes to avoid (no staples, no wacky fonts, and for heaven's sake don't require the recipient to have to sign for it!). I sent in a story. But I still made a huge mistake. I forgot to include the SASE. Turns out the editor was sending comments back that year in checklist form. Comments that might have helped with writing the next entry. I blew it!
It's near the end of 2000 and I'm submitting again. This time I wrote a story that meant something to me. I sat down and made it the best story I could. But I hedged on sending it. I waited until the very last minute, and decided I had to mail it or I'd never know what might have been. So I rushed to the PO and paid a ridiculous sum of money to have it overnighted.
I couldn't wait to see the results online. But on the day the winners were announced, I sat back in my chair, disappointed. My story hadn't been chosen. But at least this time I'd included the SASE so I hoped, really hoped for some feedback.
Here's my favorite part of the story:
About a month later, mid-afternoon, just before the kids got home, the phone rang. It was the editor, Dean Wesley Smith, calling me at home. What???
I knew I hadn't won a spot in the anthology so I couldn't imagine why he was calling.
But he explained. He really liked my story. Liked it a lot. But because of other reasons, reasons that make perfect sense, it couldn't be published. To be honest, I kinda thought that might be a problem even as I wrote it.
In case I haven't made it clear: That phone call meant the world to me. Dean taking the time out to tell me that my story was good made me realize -- maybe for the first time -- that I really could do this. That maybe I had what it took to be a writer. I can't even begin to explain what an important moment this was for me.
So... why am I telling you this today? Because Dean, and his wife Kristine Kathryn Rusch, who have since both become friends, have a whole lot of information to share about the publishing world. Between them they've probably published 150 (more?) novels and countless short stories. They've edited, published, written, taught. You name it. They're great people and extremely generous with their knowledge.
Dean writes the Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing blog and Kris writes the Freelancer's Survival Guide. Do you want to be a writer? Then click on either, or better yet, both, and read and read and read. I just noticed today that Dean mentions my short story in his latest chapter of Killing the Sacred Cows and it brought back a flood of memories. That's what inspired me to share it here.
What happened next, you ask? In 2001, I submitted a new story (I actually submitted a couple that year) and saw my first publication in SNW 5, in 2002. Then again in 2003 and 2004 (my "Life's Work" actually won the grand prize that year). And that year, 2004, was the same year my first novel was published by Five Star.
It's 2010 now, and I have two series with Berkley. Love them both. I've won writing awards (woo-hoo) and I'm doing exactly what I wanted to be doing since I was about six years old. I'm having the time of my life.
Dean's call that day still stands as the very best rejection I've ever received. And it probably will always be the best rejection ever.
I am so lucky he took the time to encourage this new writer. To me, it made all the difference.
So, new writers - read those two blogs linked above. And don't stop writing.
Author, editor, and agent friends - when you see something in a new writer's work that catches your eye, maybe take a minute to let that new writer know. It could make all the difference to them.
Today is election day and that makes me very happy. Why? Because as of today, the phone calls stop. The constant, annoying, robocall, useless phone calls stop. Woo-hoo!!
There I am, right in the middle of writing an intense scene, and the phone rings - shattering my concentration. Doesn't matter that I see it's an unfamiliar number and let it go to voicemail. Too late. The moment is lost. Elizabeth Spann Craig, an author friend of mine, suggested we all return the favor when our books come out. We can call these politicians - winners, losers, who cares? - and incessantly urge them to buy our books. I love it.
But if there was a vote for no more political calling, I'd be first in line!
Does anyone make his or her voting decision based on a recorded phone call? Have you ever been swayed by a call like that? Do you know anyone who has?
Seems to me these candidates are throwing money away.