Friday, November 30, 2012

What will be under your tree this year?

*Note: This adorable photo was taken shortly before I caught him noshing on the wire that connects the tree lights to the outlet. He was promptly evicted from his cozy little nest.

A friend of mine asked me what I wanted to find under my tree this year - and my first thought was, well, I know what I don't want to find. Any surprises left by the cats.

Beyond that, I had to think about what I really wanted under the tree. Books, of course! And new pajamas and some fancy flavored tea...but that's about it.

If you celebrate a gifty holiday, what's on your list this year?

Monday, November 26, 2012

Creating a Character: Armani Vasquez

We hope everyone in the U.S. had a wonderful holiday.

Mine got a great start with Further Confessions making it onto its first Holiday Buying Guide of the year. :-)

In CONFESSIONS OF A SLIGHTLY NEUROTIC HITWOMAN and the sequel FURTHER CONFESSIONS OF A SLIGHTLY NEUROTIC HITWOMAN the protagonist, Maggie Lee, has one co-worker she's friendly with, Armani Vasquez.

A lot of readers comment on how much they like Armani. One recently asked me how I came up with her. I thought the answer might be fun to share with you. Obviously these will make more sense to you if you've read the books, but even if you haven't you can see how I knit together different memories to create a character.

Here's a little insight into my bizarre creative process.

-- Years ago I worked with a woman who was convinced she could slack all the time and bragged about the fact they'd never fire her because of Equal Opportunity. 

-- Long Suffering and I play a lot of Scrabble. The tiles seem like modernized tea leaves. 

-- I have a close friend who is a strong believer in psychics.

-- I went to see the Ice Capades when I was seven. We had front row seats and I was terrified of the Zamboni machine. 

-- I had a neighbor whose kid was named Armani who was always sticking her arms/legs through the outdoor railing which left her in danger of losing a limb. 

-- The last name of Vasquez came about simply because it's got such a high Scrabble point value.

If you're a writer, how do you cobble together characters?
If you're a reader, who are some of your favorite characters and why?

And for everyone: What do you think should be on the shopping lists of everyone this holiday season? (doesn't have to be books)

Friday, November 23, 2012

My Favorite Non-Holiday

I hope everyone who celebrates had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Now it’s the day after and there should be turkey leftovers in the fridge, a pile of dirty dishes in the sink and, if you’re like me – a half assembled Christmas tree on the living room floor.

I am not a Black Friday shopper. To all of you who got up at 3:00 AM and were on line at the nearest retail store at sunrise, I wish you the best of luck. I just don’t have the fortitude to battle the crowds for bargains. I’d much rather sleep in and enjoy the holiday that isn’t really a holiday.

Black Friday, for me, is more like Red and Green Friday. That’s the start of the Christmas season for me, so you’ll find me rooting around in the basement digging out the ornaments and untangling strings of lights. I’m hanging wreaths and putting new batteries in the electric candles and tying garland to the banisters.

My husband thinks I’m crazy and he spends most of the day shaking his head and sighing [the sighing gets louder when I ask him to help me drag boxes decorations up from the basement and send him on the annual hunt for extension cords]. By the end of the day I’m exhausted but I usually feel like I’ve accomplished something. My next project is to prepare for Cyber Monday – when I actually do most of my Holiday Shopping.

So how do you celebrate Black Friday?

Monday, November 19, 2012

Holiday Stories & Disney-size Dreams courtesy of Misty Evans

Today we're welcoming back Misty Evans, who is going to talk about her novella THE SECRET LIFE OF CRANBERRY SAUCE. Some lucky commenters are going to get the chance to read this little gem!

*** Note from JB ***

I had the opportunity to beta read this fun, bite-sized treat of a story. It's a great, calorie-free morsel to indulge in this holiday season. 

Please give a Killer Welcome to Misty!

Holiday Stories & Disney-size Dreams 
by Misty Evans

Why do we love holiday stories? Well, I don’t know about you, but for me, there’s a little more fairy dust floating around during the holidays. The possibility that Santa is real and wishes do come true. I let my inner child dream Disney-size dreams, and often find small surprises are even better. Big things come in small packages, right?

From Halloween on, I read holiday stories to get me in the mood. Stories are like those big things that come in small packages. Those innocent little stories allow me to believe in miracles. I can believe snowed-in couples will find true love during a blizzard. That fictional families will survive the zombie apocalypse and celebrate Thanksgiving. That the fireman pretending to be Santa at a charity gig will run into his high school sweetheart and ask her to a very special New Year’s Eve party.

My latest culinary romance novella, The Secret Life of Cranberry Sauce, is a holiday story and I had way too much fun writing it. I took a couple from high school – Joel and Aurora – and threw them together during a blizzard the night before Thanksgiving. Aurora’s job is on the line and Joel’s heart is as well. Mix in holiday stress, the stranded-by-snow element, and just to make things really interesting, I tossed in Joel’s ex-girlfriendSecret High School’s Most Popular Cheerleader—to give them both some angst.

Since Aurora was the girl voted least likely to succeed in school, she considers herself to be a lot like traditional cranberry sauce…the side dish no one cares about. Until she discovers that Joel does care about her, and even if he didn’t, she realizes during the course of the story that she has a career and a family that make her Most Likely to Love Her Life. She has Disney-size dreams and a plan to make them come true.

And Joel? Well, he’s is the special ingredient in her cranberry sauce life, adding a delicious new flavor to her side dish.

So tell me what you love about holiday stories…is the possibility that the impossible can happen? The winter settings? The happy endings? Anyone who comments and includes their email address will receive a free ecopy of The Secret Life of Cranberry Sauce!

Misty Evans is the award-winning author of four series. She likes her coffee black, her conspiracy stories juicy, and her wicked characters dressed in couture. When not cooking or writing, she enjoys hanging out with her husband and their twin sons. Learn more and sign up for her newsletter at Like her author page on Facebook or follow her on Twitter.

Buy links:

Friday, November 16, 2012

Movie Review: Wreck-it Ralph

If you’re looking for a movie you can take your kids to see, but you don’t have to be a kid to enjoy, Disney’s Wreck-it Ralph is worth the price of admission.

The animated story follows the misadventures of the kind-hearted villain of the video game Fixit Felix, Jr. Ralph [voiced by John C. Reilly] is a hulking behemoth with hands the size of VW Beetles and an innate ability to destroy things without even really trying. Ralph is tired of his bad-guy image and only wants to be treated with a little respect and kindness – something sadly lacking from the other inhabitants of his game. On a quest for true hero status, he jumps into a sci-fi war game to retrieve the winner’s medal and accidentally gets catapulted from the Alien-esque first-person shooter world to the saccharine universe of Sugar Rush, a racing game that makes Candy Land look like a Weight Watchers advertisement.

Sugar Rush is a sweet and gooey place with a rotten core made even less friendly by Ralph’s unwitting introduction of a hungry bug from the other game. Amid peppermint trees, gum drop fields and ponds of pastel icing, Ralph reluctantly teams up with a wide-eyed peppy sprite named Vanellope von Schweetz [voiced by Sarah Silverman]. Vanellope’s desperate desire to win the Sugar Rush qualifying race and earn the right to become a player avatar is complicated by the fact that she’s a ‘glitch’ – a character with no real place in the game. Like Ralph, she’s an outcast in her world who only wants to prove her worth to those who see her as nothing but a nuisance.

The movie is visually appealing and the story is warm and fuzzy yet manages not to cause any toothaches despite the relentless cuteness of absolutely everything. Anyone who has ever played a video game will recognize popular characters, and the plot twists will keep adults entertained without confusing younger children.

A clever, romantic short film, and the requisite Disney happy ending, bookend 101 minutes of great family entertainment. Wreck-it Ralph earns five cherry gumdrops from me.

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Yellow Book is here!

One of my fans has taken to calling FURTHER CONFESSIONS OF A SLIGHTLY NEUROTIC HITWOMAN "the yellow book". (It's pretty obvious why.)

My little dog thinks they're interesting.

My bigger dog could care less. She's much more interested in her bone, squirrels, and playing in fallen leaves.

One of them is obviously the intellectual of the family. The other is obviously related to Doomsday from the Confessions books.

They'd both like you to know that if you've been waiting for the print version of The Yellow Book named Book of the Month by Long and Short Reviews and a Top Pick by Night Owl Reviews, it will be available tomorrow!

Take three wacky aunts,
two talking animals,
one nervous bride,
and an upcoming hit,
and you've got the follow-up
to JB Lynn's wickedly funny
Confessions of a Slightly Neurotic Hitwoman
Knocking off a drug kingpin was the last thing on Maggie Lee's to-do list, but when a tragic accident leaves her beloved niece orphaned and in the hospital, Maggie will go to desperate lengths to land the money needed for her care.
But the drug kingpin is the least of her worries. Maggie's aunts are driving her crazy, her best friend's turned into a bridezilla…and a knock on the head has given Maggie Dr. Dolittle abilities—she can talk to animals. Unfortunately, they talk back.
It's just another day in the life of this neurotic hit woman…

TELL ME KILLER FRIENDS: Who is the wackiest person you know? A neighbor? A friend? A family member? A co-worker? YOU?????

Friday, November 9, 2012

What are you watching?

 Let’s forget for a little while that TV rots our brains and talk about what we love to watch.

THE NEW GIRL – I’m not fond of the word ‘adorkable’ but I love this show, even though I’m not sure it really has a plot.

MODERN FAMILY – Not too many sit-coms actually make me laugh out loud, but this one does.

THE VAMPIRE DIARIES – okay, so I used to think it was just a knock-off of BUFFY – okay, it IS a knock-off of BUFFY, but since there’s no BUFFY anymore, something that reminds me of BUFFY is BUFFY enough. Oh, and Ian Somerhalder is HOT.

THE BIG BANG THEORY – tech geeks and nerds, gotta love it.

ONCE UPON A TIME – I never thought I’d be hooked on a show about fairy tales, but everything that happens in Storybrook, Maine fascinates me. Fastest 60 minutes of the whole week.

THE WALKING DEAD – It’s a complete 180 from Once Upon a Time and it takes the squick factor to new levels every week, but just like a good zombie apocalypse, once you get into it, you can’t get out.

So tell me, what shows do you hate to miss?

Monday, November 5, 2012

Let me entertain you!!!

Dealing with the effects of Sandy has left me exhausted. Rather than subject you to a half-hearted attempt at a post, I thought I'd share an excerpt from one of my WIPs. Our thoughts are with all of those still suffering as a result of the storm.

I hope you're entertained!

A dead guy was checking out my ass.
Not that there was much to see. While a disposable biohazard suit protects against blood-borne pathogens, it’s not exactly the most flattering of fashions.
I turned around and glared at the dead guy through my protective goggles. “Didn’t your mother ever teach you that it’s not polite to stare?” My indignation was muffled by the respirator mask covering my mouth and nose.
Ever since I’d met my first one in a burning meth house, two and a half years earlier, encountering ghosts had become fairly common place.  Most of the time I met them while working a job since they were connected to the place they died. The easy fix would have been to get into another line of work, but right after the meth house incident, my brother Jerry’s National Guard reserve unit had been called up to active duty and off he’d gone to serve his country while I’d been left to serve the needs of Spring Cleaning.
I no longer freaked out when I saw a ghost. They’re really more of a nuisance than anything, despite what books and movies would have us believe. In close to three years, I’d never had reason to fear one. They weren’t malevolent spirits out to do me harm, they were just pathetic souls, stuck looking through a window at a world they could never be a part of again.
Nearly naked Myron Blotto, all three hundred hairy pounds of him, leered at me from where he hovered in the middle of the room.  Thankfully he’d died wearing red silk boxer shorts, so at least I was spared the trauma of witnessing him in all his nude glory. In this job it’s the little things that count.
“I don’t get paid enough for this,” I muttered, turning my attention back to cutting up the butt-ugly carpet of the cheap motel room that had absorbed some of the fluids from Myron’s decomposing body. Crime scene clean up actually pays pretty well considering you don’t need a college degree or the most sterling job history to get the gig, but my paycheck doesn’t compensate me for dealing with lecherous ghosts.
“How’d a nice girl like you end up with a job like this?” Myron asked.
I jabbed at the carpet with my blade a little harder. One of the reasons I’d agreed to take this job when Jerry offered it was that I thought I’d be spared having to make inane small talk with strangers. That was back when I didn’t believe in ghosts, back before I could see and talk to them.
Myron had been talking to me for over three hours now.  I was tired and sweaty, and not in the mood to chat. “Really? You’re going to trot out the nice girl line? Is that what you used on the hooker? Maybe that’s why she left you to rot after you croaked.”
His body hadn’t been discovered for almost a week, which was why the floor covering had to be trashed.
“You don’t have to be so mean.” The big guy actually sounded hurt.
My back and conscience twinged as I ripped up the piece of rug I’d carved out. I tossed it in a plastic biohazard bin before turning back to Myron. He was no longer leering, now he looked to be on the verge of tears. I felt kind of sorry for him. According to Ned, the motel manager, and one of my regular customers, Myron had rented this hellhole by the month. The guy obviously hadn’t had an easy life.
“Look,” I told him more gently. “There’s nothing here for you. You have to move on.”
“Move on?” Myron asked plaintively.
“Do you see a bright light?”
He shook his head.
I sighed. They never did. That would be too easy. To be honest, I didn’t even know whether the stupid bright light thing was even real, but at heart, I’m a pretty lazy person and that light, if it does exist, seemed like the easiest way to rid myself of ghosts, so I always ask.
“Something is keeping you here. If we can figure out what your unfinished business is, we can get you out of my hair…uh…I mean… help you move on.”
Myron squinted at me dubiously. “Unfinished business?”
I turned back to the floor where Myron’s body had been discovered. “Yeah. Unfinished business. Maybe it’s some message you want to get to somebody. Or some task you need completed.”
“I would have liked what I paid Cherry for.”
Grabbing my blade, I began gouging out the carpet pad. “Assuming that Cherry is the hooker, I’m gonna make a wild guess and say that is not what’s keeping you here. Usually it’s something important.”
“It was important to me,” Myron groused.
            “You hired a hooker, had a heart attack and died in this crappy motel room, Myron. Surely there was something in more important than Cherry’s job skills.”
            “Well there was one thing,” he said slowly.
            I put down my blade and peered at him through my plastic goggles. “What?”
            “It’s going to sound stupid.”
            “Stupider than being tethered to this world just because your favorite prostitute didn’t deliver your happy ending?”
            He considered that for a moment, scratching his hairy belly like it was a good luck Buddha. “I forgot to mail a letter.”
            “A letter?”
            He nodded somberly, his fleshy jowls jiggling like gelatin.
            “What’s so important about this letter?”
            The ridiculously upbeat notes of  Living La Vida Loca suddenly echoed in the room.
            “Oh crap! The birthday party!” My cell phone only plays that song when one person calls, and the only reason my mother would be calling, would be to remind me of the birthday party. I made no move to answer the phone. If I did, I’d have to tell her where I was. She wouldn’t have been pleased. “I’ve got to go,” I told Myron, snapping the lid of the biohazard bin shut. “I’ll come back tomorrow and you can tell me all about this letter of yours.”
            “You’ve hung out here for a week, and you’re already dead, so one more night won’t kill you.”
            I stumbled out of the room and almost collided with a woman pushing a cleaning cart. “Sorry.”
            Abandoning the cart, she backed away from me, making no effort to disguise her utter revulsion. Yup, even someone who scrubs toilets and changes the dirty sheets where prostitutes have plied their trade thinks my job is disgusting. Ignoring her, I ripped off my protective suit, stuffed it in a trash bag which I tossed atop the biohazard bin, and closed the door, double-checking to make sure it was locked. “Don’t go in there,” I told the cleaning woman who hadn’t yet reclaimed her cart.
            For good measure I stuck a piece of Crime Scene Do Not Cross tape across the doorway. It wasn’t actually a crime scene, but the tape is the equivalent of putting out a Beware of Dog sign; enough to deter the merely curious. Nothing would be enough to keep out those who were truly determined.
            “I’ll be back tomorrow,” I said a tad too loudly since I wanted to be sure that Myron could hear me through the door.
            The cleaning woman crossed herself as though I’d just spit a gypsy curse at her.
            I jumped into the company van and raced to the dilapidated  house I  have called home for over three years. I took a long, hot shower (a quick shower would have been more efficient, but when I’ve spent hours cleaning up decomp it can be a challenge to wash that death right outta my hair) until I felt like I could pass in the land of the living.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Sandy - The Aftermath

It’s been a helluva week. On Sunday, under threat of the impending superstorm, we went food shopping and found many of the essentials were already sold out of our local stores. You couldn’t get bottled water or D batteries. Bread was scarce.

On Monday we watched the weather get worse throughout the day and listened to the winds blow as night fell and on Tuesday we woke up to assess the damage, which – though it was minimal for me personally – has been extensive for a number of families in town. Downed trees and broken power lines are the biggest problems we’re facing in northern NJ. The lack of electricity in many communities is creating a fuel crisis – since gas stations cannot pump gas or take electronic payments. Lines of cars stretch for miles in one direction as people hope they won’t run out of gas while waiting to fill up their tanks. Lines of people stretch in the other direction, all carrying gas cans to fill up either their cars or their generators that are providing minimal power for their homes.

Halloween passed quietly since the Governor declared that trick-or-treating would be moved to next week, and today power went out in the supermarket, so customers were turned away at the door. Restaurants, schools, banks and other business remain closed; non-functioning traffic lights are adding to the traffic problems compounded by the gas station lines.

While I’m confident that within a few days, life will settle back into its normal rhythm with everyone working overtime to get all of our infrastructure back on-line, I can’t help thinking what a tenuous hold we have on civilization. It’s amazing to see how quickly so much can be destroyed, and how slow the process of fixing and rebuilding can be.

In my area, we were lucky. I can’t begin to imagine the devastation in the southern part of the state. Our famous [and sometimes infamous] coastline is ruined and communities there are crippled, many beyond repair.

My heart goes out to everyone affected by the storm and hope we can all look forward to a quick and steady recovery.