Thursday, August 14, 2014

Strictly Romance



Evidently, August is Celebrate Romance Month! (It's also National Catfish Month, National Eye Exam Month, and my personal favorite...Water Quality Month).

Back to romance!

I recently watched one of my all-time favorite movies again (for the 10,000th time)...STRICTLY BALLROOM. And it made me realize that all of my favorite things about romance are packed into this one, quirky, kooky, adorable Australian film.

For those of you who have never seen it (OH MY GOD! HURRY UP AND WATCH IT RIGHT NOW!), STRICTLY BALLROOM is a 1992 film about a risk-taking ballroom dancer. The characters are colorful. The ballroom dance outfits are outrageous. The music is catchy. And...well, here's my list of why this movie is #1 for most romantic in my personal stash!

A DOZEN REASONS WHY STRICTLY BALLROOM 
KICKS ROMANCE ASS

by Penelope


1. The hero has moves. As in, dance moves. SEX-AY!

2. There is an ugly duckling-to-Cinderella-transformation story. Swoon!

3. There is a grumpy, underhanded villain. With a super bad toupee!

4. There are plenty of dramatic black moments.

5. There is fantastic, quirky humor.

6. There are hilarious secondary characters, including Scott's sweet father, insane mother, 
various and assorted ballroom dancers, and some cute kids, too!

7. The setting is perfect. From the cramped practice studio, to the enormous ballroom, 
to Fran's quaint home. They all perfectly complement each scene.

8. The heroine is overlooked and underestimated by everyone. 
But she has an iron will and determination that sparkle. 
As well as a sweet vulnerability that make the viewer cheer for her happy ending.

9. The hero is a cocky, swaggering know-it-all at the beginning of the film. 
But he gets taken down a peg or two by this geeky girl. And her dad. 
And suddenly...he gets it. The big picture. 
Not just about the dance. But about...the love. And romance!

10. The music kicks ass.

11. The dance kicks ass.

12. The scene at the end of the movie where Scott slides along the floor right next to Fran, 
then stands up, staring at her with the most intense, incredible look on his face, 
kicks romance ass like there is no tomorrow.

Clip Time! WATCH THIS!
(I recommend watching the whole clip, but the stand up-hot look is at 2:03.
HOLY HOTNESS, BATMAN!)




All of the things that make this movie pure gold are the same things I look for in a romance novel. Character transformation, setting that comes to life, secondary characters who add wonderful texture to the story. Humor that makes me laugh out loud. 
And sweet, vulnerable, optimistic love. Love that makes characters willing to take chances. 
Love that shows two people they are stronger together than they are alone.

VIVA ROMANCE!
 

For more posts about why romance kicks ass, check out the CELEBRATE ROMANCE website
All your favorite authors are there chatting about LOVE, baby!
Also, Laura Florand's post is up today. Check it out!

Love is in the air,
Penny

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Summer Updates and Awesome New Reads!

Louise Penny in Norwich!




You're probably wondering where I've been! Well, it's been a super busy summer. I was here...



...at the Newport Kite Festival!


And then I was pickling vegetables...



And then I went to Northern Vermont...



And then I went to Central Vermont...



And then I went back to Vermont with Bobbi Ruggiero to see Louise Penny in Norwich...


 

 (more about this incredible pilgrimage later---)


And then I saw this owl at VINS...



And then I got this totally appropriate soap in Vermont...


  Yes, you are right. I'm having a very Vermont-y summer!


Okay, now onto the BOOKS!

I read two amazing books recently. Completely different, and both wonderful.


 
1.  LOVE AND SHENANIGANS by Zara Keane

 New-to-me author Zara Keane has created an adorable, quirky, funny, and romantic world in a small Irish town. I was totally charmed by this first book in her series. The characters are colorful, the humor is spot-on, the setting pops off the page, and the second-chance romance is oh-so-satisfying. 

She has a lovely novella coming out soon (in August), and more full-length books in this series. Check out her website for more information.

I highly recommend this book if you love small town romance, quirky characters, fun comedy, and settings that make you want to get a plane ticket to Ireland!



2. VIXEN by Julia Barrett


I was NOT expecting this.

To be honest, I had no idea what this was.

Since Julia is a friend of mine, I knew she had a new quickie out, 
but she didn't really tell me what it was about.

Well.

Well. 

Well.

I FREAKIN' LOVED THIS STORY!

I love fiction that is unexpected, and unique, and well-written, and intriguing, and fun, and has twists you don't see coming, and has the promise of more to come in the future that is exciting and new.

VIXEN is all of these things and more.

It's a VERY quick read, an amuse-bouche that will whet your appetite for more stories in this brand new world created by Julia Barrett.

It mixes comic book-style superheroes with medicine and science, with intrigue and suspense.

It's bloody, bloomin' brilliant.

I think it's being categorized as sci fi-fantasy.

Starting TODAY it is also FREE!




So, that's my quickie update. Vermont and pickles and kites and Louise Penny 
and two awesome new books.

My August project...




 Hee hee!

Ciao,
Penelope

Monday, July 7, 2014

Penelope's Fun, Different, Quirky, Not the Same Old-Same Old Summer Reading Recommendations




After reading my 3rd "summer reading recommendation" list and falling asleep, I decided it was time to offer something a bit different, instead of the same old-same old authors/books.

Here are some of my favorite recent reads, in a variety of genres, that would all make fabulous "beach" reads this summer. They run the gamut from sultry, sexy, romantic to scary-as-crap, hilarious, bittersweet, charming, fascinating, and finally...hipster.

I like my summer reading to be light, quick, and fun for the most part. Most of these fit the bill.

Work on your tan, and fall in love with these delightful books!

HAPPY SUMMER READING!

1. HORROR/DARK FANTASY: Waking The Merrow by Heather Rigney

If you're looking for something unexpectedly funny, scary as hell, incredibly well-written, and chock full of history and suspense, I highly recommend this debut novel.

READ IT IF YOU DARE! Here is my review.


2. COMEDY: The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

This is such a cute, quirky, adorable, fun, and romantic story. It's one of my favorites this year. I can see you reading this on the beach, while sipping a frozen mango margarita, and laughing out loud.

TRY IT!


3. HISTORICAL ROMANCE: The Pirate's Secret Baby by Darlene Marshall

Ms. Marshall is just a fabulous historical romance writer. She has the perfect combination of excellent writing, romance, and storytelling. She also has a real knack for fun banter and larger-than-life characters. A lovely, lusty book, perfect for a summer read.


4. HARLEQUIN SILHOUETTE DESIRE ROMANCE: Single Dad by Jennifer Greene

This "vintage" Harly (1995) was so sweet and adorable. I think it was recommended on the Amazon message boards, and I took a chance on it. I was so happy I did! It has a super sexy hero and a very romantic storyline. I have been heartily enjoying Harlies recently, and this one is a fav.


5. QUIRKY HIPSTER ROMANCE: Geek With The Cat Tattoo by Theresa Weir

This book is a little gem of a story. Beautifully written and balanced and fun (cat's POV included!) and filled with old-fashioned romantic moments. I also highly recommend the first book in the series, Girl with the Cat Tattoo. Here is my review. Theresa Weir is a supremely under-appreciated author. Her work is flawless and wonderful.


6. MYSTERY: The Gamache Series by Louise Penny

Best. Journey. Of. Your. Life.
You. Must. Read. These. Books.
On a beach. On a plane. On your porch.
Anywhere.

I LOVE YOU, GAMACHE!


7. HARLEQUIN PRESENTS: Marchese's Forgotten Bride by Michelle Reid

Thanks to Lexxi Callahan, I am now hopelessly addicted to Harlequin Presents! It's such a fun addiction. I have read about 100 of these books in the last month. It was difficult choosing just one HP for this list, but I think Marchese's Forgotten Bride is a good one. It includes amnesia, betrayal, and secret babies for the win! Warning: HPs include overbearing heroes, wispy heroines, lots of bad behavior, and extreme groveling. It's all about the grovel!

Here is my review.


8. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE: Sweetened with a Kiss by Lexxi Callahan

Speaking of Lexxi, here's another perfect summer read. This book made my list last year, and it's up here again. For a good reason. It's sexy, sultry, steamy, set in New Orleans, with amazing chemistry between the hero and heroine. Sex-ay, baby! 


9. LITERARY FICTION SHORT STORY COLLECTION: River Talk by CB Anderson

I read this collection of short stories on the beach in Florida and I loved them. Each one is beautifully crafted and written, thoughtful, bittersweet. They are snippets of life, set in Maine, and Anderson's writing is truly inspiring and lovely. Highly recommend this collection.


10. CULINARY ROMANCE: The Chocolate Rose by Laura Florand

This new-to-me author has a gift for blending the deliciousness of Paris, gourmet chocolate, and romance. It's a heady treat. The hero in this story is such a wonderful mix of vulnerability and cocky-alpha male French chef, I couldn't get enough. And he ROARS when he gets angry. SO AWESOME! Like an angry French lion. LOVE IT! This book is currently free...guaranteed, it's the best freebie you'll download this summer. HURRY!


EXTRA CREDIT SUMMER READING:

JAWS by Peter Benchley

Yes, the film is extraordinary. But this novel is fun, too, and quite different from the movie. It could be the perfect beach read. Unless you want to go swimming.


So, there you go. A nice mix of romance, mystery, horror, lit fiction, and comedy. Try one of these books and spice up your summer reading.

Happy Reading!
Penny


Monday, June 23, 2014

Summer Math



Uh oh. Did you fail math this semester? Time for summer school! 
Here is Penelope's Summer Math Tutorial...


1. GET FROSTY COPPER MUG OUT OF THE FREEZER



2. ADD 2 OZ. VODKA (I used blackberry vodka right out of the freezer!)




3. ADD 6 OZ. GINGER BEER




4. ADD JUICE OF ONE LIME




5. ADD 1 TABLESPOON SIMPLE SYRUP




6. ADD FRESH MINT 
(AND SOME EDIBLE JOHNNY JUMP-UPS FOR FUN!)




7. STIR EVERYTHING TOGETHER AND ADD ICE




8. WHAT DO YOU GET?
A MOSCOW MULE!




Equation: 1 copper mug + 2 oz. vodka + 6 oz. ginger beer + juice of 1 lime + 1 T simple syrup + fresh mint + ice + big summer thirst =

MOSCOW MULE!
Drink up.


Congrats! You have now passed Penelope's Math Tutorial!
The MOSCOW MULE is my new favorite cocktail. Very refreshing and perfect for summer.


HAVE A FROSTY DAY!

Penny



Sunday, June 22, 2014

HAPPY SUMMER VACATION!


YEE HAW! 

SUMMER VACATION IS FINALLY HERE!


Here are 10 awesome things coming up this summer...

1. Family trip to Lake Champlain


 We haven't been back to the Basin Harbor Club for years, since the kids were little. 
I love this place. It has a charming, old-fashioned vibe that is both relaxing and rejuvenating. 
And I get to see the kingfishers in the morning. Can't wait!


2. Writer's retreat with the Junior Mints to Woodstock, VT!


My second trip to Vermont for the summer!
The gals and I will be diligently working on our latest novel antiquing, noshing, exploring, and generally having an excellent time.
Oh yeah, we'll probably work, too.


3. I'M GOING TO SEE LOUISE PENNY 
AT THE NORWICH BOOKSTORE!  
AHHHHHHH!



I have been patiently waiting for the day when Louise Penny would tour New England.
And THE DAY IS FINALLY HERE!
She will be reading and signing books at the adorable Norwich Bookstore in July.
 And I think I was the first one to get tickets. Hee hee!
This is how I feel about that...

 

So, this will be my THIRD trip to Vermont for the summer. I am not complaining!


4. Family reunion in Jamestown, Rhode Island


My hubby grew up in Rhode Island, and we try to get back here every summer.
My favorite things to do? Cliff Walk, Sachuest Point, and getting a Del's lemonade by the beach.
It has chunks of lemon peel in it. YUM!

 

5. Finish THE LUMBERJACK AND MIMI SPARKLES

 
I finally figured out what story to finish over the summer. 
LUMBERJACK POWER ACTIVATE!


6. Kids are going to movie-making camp, art camp, overnight camp, and community service camp.



7. I'm doing the "get hot while it's hot" challenge with Sue.
Check out her blog and her inspirational story about losing weight and getting healthy!



8. Newport Kite Festival


The Kite Festival at Breton Point State Park in Newport, RI is a blast.
This park is right next to the ocean--gorgeous! 
And the sky is filled with kites of every shape, color and style.


9. Summer Cocktails!


My new favorite summer drink is the MOSCOW MULE.
I'll have more about this tasty cocktail later in the week.


10. Gardening in New England


Pumpkins are growing. I have squash, peppers, raspberries, tomatoes, fresh dill cropping up.
I've been using my fresh oregano and lemon balm every day.


I LOVE SUMMER!


What is everyone doing this summer? Anything fun? Let me know!

Penny

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Pet Party and Lumberjack Sale!

Snuggle Time! My favorite!


A few important announcements...

1. Please join me at the Must Love Pets Facebook party tomorrow, Monday June 16, from 1:30-2 pm. Lucy and I will be chatting with folks and giving away two fun prizes!


Join us on Facebook. I'll be there from 1:30-2!


PRIZE ONE: Some goodies for you and your dog...includes a copy of LUCY THE WONDER WEENIE, Magic Beans Lip Balm from Be Greatful, a cute nylon chew toy for your pet, and a bag of home-made, all-natural dog biscuits from The Playful Pup. (Lucy ADORES these biscuits!)



PRIZE TWO: For fun-loving grown-ups or kids...includes a copy of LUCY THE WONDER WEENIE, a Beanie Baby weenie dog plush toy, Magic Beans lip balm and Licking Lucy lip balm from Be Greatful.


Stop by tomorrow and join the chat!



2. Who needs a healthy dose of lumberjack? I DO I DO! I decided to put LUMBERJACK ON LOVE on sale for the summer...

JUST 99 CENTS FOR A HOT BEARDED LUMBERJACK!

CHOP CHOP CHOP


Purchase for $0.99 at...





I'll be back later with more announcements and links. Only FOUR MORE DAYS OF SCHOOL!

Ciao,
Penny 



Monday, June 2, 2014

Reading and Reception at 13FOREST Gallery, June 5, 7-9 pm...Don't Miss It!



LOCAL BOSTON/NEW ENGLAND READERS....

DON'T MISS THE READING/RECEPTION
 13FOREST GALLERY
Arlington, MA

THURSDAY JUNE 5

7-9 PM


CB Anderson, award-winning author and journalist, and Penny Watson (that's me!), will be reading from our recent releases at 13FOREST Gallery on Thursday evening. I'm bringing apple wine, apple cider, apple desserts, and other apple goodies. Also, we'll be selling our books after the reading. Anderson's collection of short stories, RIVER TALK, is a wonderful, beautifully written, often bittersweet exploration of life in Maine. I highly recommend checking out her book. 

Here's the flyer for our event...


Hope to see you there!

Penny

Friday, May 30, 2014

It Is What It Is -- Who Dictates The Book?


I've been thinking about this a lot lately: industry-driven and reader-driven publications vs. author-driven work.

Here's how I see the break-down...


1. Industry-Driven

This is NOT the "book of your heart."

This is the book--you/your editor, publisher, agent--anticipate will SELL.

Many professional authors write this way, trying to anticipate/predict what will sell, what is hot, what is the latest trend.

This is why so many authors "jump on the bandwagon" (writing billionaires, NA, BDSM, serials, a few years ago it was vampires, etc).

Example #1: I know an author who was given a list of "hot topics" by her publisher. She had to choose one to write about. She chose "motorcycle clubs."

When an author does not have the creative freedom to even choose her own book topic, this is an example of industry-driven writing.

Example #2: I know an author who wrote a lovely historical romance. Her agent told her it was not sexy enough to sell in the market, and made her "up" the heat level. This level of sexiness was not appropriate for the story. Nevertheless, the author complied. She had no choice.

When the market dictates sensuality level in a book, instead of the author/story itself, this is an example of industry-driven writing.

Example #3:

When jumping on the bandwagon of hot trends trumps good writing, good storytelling, unique story ideas, this is another example of industry-driven writing.



2. Reader-Driven

What do readers want?

There are plenty of non-discriminating readers who are cheap and like porn.

Exhibit A...Monster Erotica.

These books are poor quality and priced accordingly. They also sell like hotcakes.

Books of questionable quality are popping up on the NYT Bestseller list. What does this mean?
A) The NYT Bestseller list is no longer a badge of honor.
B) People are cheap.

Is there a disconnect between what industry predicts and what readers really want?

I see readers complaining bitterly on the message boards about serials and feeling manipulated by authors/publishers with cliffhanger books and over-priced serials. It is one of the most passionate topics. Nevertheless, the publishers keep cranking out over-priced serials with cliffhanger endings. I'm not sure what this means. Are they really selling well? Are there plenty of readers who love them, buy them, and are just not represented on the message boards? Or is there a huge disconnect between what publishers are peddling and what readers really want?

This is a good question, and I don't have the answer.

I'm not sure if "reader desires" and "publisher desires" are actually the same thing. There is over-lap, but I get the distinct feeling that the pubs are flailing in a lot of ways.
 


3. Author-Driven....

You write your own story.

You come up with the idea on your own, don't copy it from someone else.

You have no idea how long it will be.

You focus on good-quality writing, good storytelling.

You are not anticipating trends, how to market it, etc. You just write it, tell the story.

IT IS WHAT IT IS.

You let it develop organically, naturally. It could be short, or long, or plot-driven, character-driven.
And then, AFTER you write it, you can figure out the proper way to publish and market.



There are pros and cons with all three of these.

What if you write the "story of your heart" and no one wants to buy it?

What if you write a monster erotica and become a millionaire (laugh your way to the bank)?

What if you follow all the rules your publisher dictates, and book doesn't sell well because it doesn't "sing"--sometimes writing is stale if you try to write to market.

I don't think any of these are right or wrong necessarily.

You have to decide what your goal is when you write.

To make money?
To become a bestseller?
To satisfy your readers? yourself? your agent?

To satisfy a creative need?

To establish a professional career?


Can you write the story of your heart, and satisfy the readers and industry at the same time?

One can only hope.



Signing Off,
Penny

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Review for WAKING THE MERROW by Heather Rigney



Let me just get this right out there from the get-go.

This is without a doubt the coolest debut novel I've ever read.

Heather Rigney, who the hell are you? And where did you come from?

WAKING THE MERROW is a cross-genre, horrifying twist on the mermaid legend. Rigney has seamlessly woven a story that combines horror, comedy, colonial history, fantasy world-building, flawless writing, and the most unappealing yet strangely mesmerizing "heroine" I've ever read. Evie is a short, fat, self-loathing alcoholic who manages to get the reader, against her will, rooting for her in this fascinating tale.

This story jumps back in forth from current times to colonial times in Rhode Island, and mixes intriguing bits of maritime history with the familial history of the Irish Cantillon family. Not only is Rigney a fine writer, but she is also an excellent storyteller. The pacing and time-jumping are perfectly executed, and I raced along with the story to find out what would happen to Evie and her family.

Warning: This is not your mother's cutesy mermaid with the sparkling tiara and clam-shell bra. 

Not even close.

I love a good horror tale, and this certainly delivers. Rigney calls this novel "dark fantasy" and I agree. It's fantasy. And it's dark. And the juxtaposition of mundane real-life details with horrifying merrow behavior works spectacularly well.

There was a wee lull in the story during the tribunal near the end, but other than that, it was close to perfect. And the ending promises more in this series.

Forgive the pun: this baby blew me right out of the freezing cold Rhode Island waters, and I can't freakin' wait to dive back in with the next book.

If you are looking for something unique, creative, well-written and satisfying, I highly recommend WAKING THE MERROW. In a sea of cookie cutter releases, this book stands out as one-of-a-kind, which is quite a feat for a debut author.

Highly recommend! Grade: A

Penny

Check out Heather's cool website!


SUMMARY:

WAKING THE MERROW is a horrifying, addictive, and intriguing twist on the mermaid legend, and takes the reader on a bone-chilling ride through colonial and current times in Rhode Island. This is a fabulous debut novel by Heather Rigney.

Read it if you dare.


Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Stuff We've Been Doing


1. Shopping for plants.


2. Shopping for seeds.



3. Planting stuff.



4. Sowing seeds in veggie garden. 
(Hubby put up fence to keep out bunnies!)


5. Hubby went fishing in New Brunswick.



 6. Reading some books.

WINNERLAND--intense story of survival, just started...LOVE it!

A CONVENIENT ARRANGEMENT--Loved The Italian Wife, The Spanish Groom was not my fav.

BUSHWHACKED--cute novella set in Alaska with beardy hermit hero!


7. Listening to some music. From Pitch Perfect.


Happy Spring,
Penny