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SPECIAL HOLIDAY DEAL!
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Monday, November 30, 2009

Launch Week!


I polished off a nice assortment of books this past holiday weekend. Re-read a bunch of Julie Garwood historicals, including Saving Grace, which I love. I adore Julie Garwood's lusty Scottish warrior heroes. The scene at the end of this book, when the bad guy gets his ass kicked by the entire MacBain clan as they shoot him full of arrows, is fantastic. I also re-read Lisa Kleypas' Seduce Me At Sunrise. I am totally digging the whole gypsy thing going on here. I LOVE the concept of the man kidnapping his bride, hauling her pretty little arse away on his horse, and having his wicked way with her. Awe-some.  

Since this is launch week for my debut novel Sweet Inspiration, I have a lot of stuff going on. Here's a preview of review sites, interviews, guest blogs, etc. Please stop by to say hello and check out these great sites!

Monday (11-30): Review at Smexy Books
    Interview at Tales of Whimsy

Tuesday (12-1): Interview/Giveaway at Smexy Books

Wednesday (12-2): RELEASE DAY!! Stop by Penelope's!
     Review at Outlandish Dreaming

Thursday (12-3): Interview at Emily Bryan's Blog

Saturday (12-5): Guest Blog at Mama Writer's

Happy Reading,
Penelope

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Winners!



Lots of winners this week! Juju and Julie are the lucky winners of the Klaus Brothers Invasion contest. Julie won an Amazon gift card, and Juju won some yummy gingerbread cookies from Williams and Sonoma. Congrats, ladies! Also, Sherry has won a print copy of Michelle Picard's novel Ruling Eden. Thanks for stopping by yesterday. Hope everyone is gearing up for a fun Thanksgiving celebration. Yesterday, at the grocery store, my daughter surveyed the turkeys in everyone's shopping carts and commented, "Why do we have to kill all the turkeys? What have they ever done to us?" A future vegetarian in the making. ;)

Happy Turkey Day, 
Penelope

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Interview and Give-Away With Michelle Picard


I am thrilled to have new author Michelle Picard visiting Penelope's today! Her debut novel Ruling Eden is now available at Crescent Moon Press. It's a fabulous adventure/fantasy/romance, with a kick-ass heroine, tons of cool other-worldly races, including dragons, faeries, vampires, etc., and finally a delicious character named Gabriel (I love you, Gabe-baby!!!!). Please leave a message for Michelle and say hello. We will be giving away a print copy of Ruling Eden to one lucky reader.

Pen: Welcome Michelle to Penelope's! So glad to have you here today. Your book is such a great adventure. What book have you read that felt like the ultimate adventure, like you couldn't wait to find out the next thing that would happen? (This is how I feel about Ruling Eden...it was awesome!).

Michelle: I feel a bit like that when I’m reading Karen Marie Moning’s Fever series. Not that I’m rating myself up there with that kick-ass urban fantasy Fae series, but I definitely can’t help turning the page to find out more. Rachel Caine’s Weather Warden series is also like that for me. These are books where the action is so constant, it’s amazing how much happens in each novel.

Pen: Haven't tried Rachel Caines' series yet. Thanks for the recommendation! (Great, just what I need...more books on my TBR pile! Hee hee.....). I love your heroine Rachel's sassy first person POV. She is a great combination of street smart, cocky and vulnerable. When you were writing this book, did you "become" Rachel as you wrote from her point of view?  Did you know who she was before you started, or learn more about her as the book progressed? Is any part of Rachel like you?

Michelle: I knew a bit about Rachel when I began. But I learned more along the way. I remember beginning Ruling Eden knowing I wanted her cocky, with a sarcastic edge and with a darker past. (I’ll admit to the sarcastic portion coming from my own personality—grin). I became fuzzy about her after the first three chapters. At that point I sat down and made Rachel write a stream of consciousness commentary on her life. She was very accommodating and set me straight fast about who she was. I do think her fear of becoming too powerful and allowing that power to corrupt her didn’t jump out at me until late in writing the novel.  And yes, after writing so many first person pages of this manuscript, I was pretty much inside Rachel’s head by the end.

Pen: I love the texture of your writing. All of the senses are covered in each scene, very painterly. Do you think about all of the senses for each scene?

Michelle: I pay attention to the senses as I write, mostly because I find without them the emotional intensity of a scene is missing. Usually I’ll succeed in hitting a few of the major ones in the draft of a new chapter. Then I go back, read it, notice the missing tension or intensity, and purposefully add in what I’ve neglected. I’ve become a huge fan of tactile and olfactory description, but that’s evolved as my writing has.

Pen: You do a great job with your "hooks" at the end of each chapter. I couldn't wait to get to the next chapter and find out what was going to happen. Do you know what your hook will be when you start writing each chapter?

Michelle: Absolutely not. They’re a surprise to me. I have a general idea of what’s going to happen by the end of a chapter and of the ground I need to cover, but the emotional place the character ends is not as clear before I get there. It evolves as I write. The hook is extremely dependent on that emotional state. They usually pop at me easily when I reach the culmination of the scene or chapter.

Pen: There is an enormous amount of complexity in this story with all of the different characters and different worlds. How do you keep it all straight? Do you outline? Plot in advance? Do character sheets/world-building sheets for each group?

Michelle: Here’s where I sheepishly admit that my organizational system would be graded a D minus. No character sheets or world-building sheets for me, though I’ve been forwarded a ton of great ones over the years. Most of the complexity and detail is in my head. I certainly plot in advance, but those details almost never reflect the minutiae of the characters or world. I’ll go back and review past chapters to get my mind refreshed as I create new scenes. There’s a lot of back and forth in my technique and I tend to layer in complex details in stages.

Pen: I sheepishly admit it, too. All those damned character sheets and spreadsheets remind me way too much of homework! I loved all of the different races in your book. Which one of the seven paranormal groups would you choose to be and why?

Michelle: Hmmh, good question. Although I adore my hero, Gabriel, who is part angel and part demon, I’d avoid choosing either of those races. There’s one place in my book (or is it in the pending sequel?) where Rachel comments about the irony of having one race with a grating excess of humor and another with a complete dearth  (demons and angels respectively). So they’re out. Probably I’d choose to be a dragon. Rachel’s brother Qest, who is quite a sweetie, is a Kyn, the other reference name for the dragon race. They all have humanoid forms and their dragon forms are gorgeous. Second runner up is Fae. The Fae queen is the ultimate crazy bitch, but I love their magic and the Doctor Seuss like visual quality of their realm. Okay, I love how the witches do magic, too. You sure I have to choose Penelope?

Pen: I know, that's sort of a mean question, isn't it. I TOTALLY love the dragon scenes in your book. I got chills reading those, seriously. Speaking of chills (hee hee) how do you feel about writing love scenes? Difficult, fun, weird?? Does adding magic into the love scene make it more fun to write?

Michelle: Love scenes are not difficult for me. They fly off the keyboard as I type. I’m not sure exactly what that says about me, but I leave it to everybody else to draw his or her own conclusions. Yes, they’re fun, and integrating magic into them adds flexibility to what I can describe or create. Love scenes also allow the characters to reach a different level of emotional truth than many other scenes. On top of that, they’re just plain hot. And how is that not fun?

Pen: Well, if you're a romance author and you don't like writing love scenes, you're in big trouble. I agree...it's fun! :)  As I already mentioned, I love the dragon world in Ruling Eden, and your vision of Hell is so funny. How did you come up with the ideas for all seven worlds?

Michelle: Those visions I definitely did not plot in advance. When each realm arrived in the story for me to describe, the picture jumped out clear to me within a few moments. As long as I’m deep into a story, those world-building aspects flow. The key has been to let myself have fun with them. Maybe not “ha ha” fun, but the kind that allows you to become outrageous or extreme. Since this is fantasy, I’m free to do what I want and don’t have to check my facts with real geographical locales. No one in Hell has been sending me nasty emails telling me I got it wrong (grin).

Pen: Do you like to listen to music while you work? Does certain music inspire your characters?

Michelle: I don’t listen to music while I type, though music does inspire my characters and story ideas. Interestingly, that was not true with the original story idea for Ruling Eden, but has developed since with my other manuscripts. When I am in my head building the story I usually “hear” dialogue. If I try to listen to music while I type, it gets in the way of that dialogue. In contradiction, my favorite place to brainstorm is my health club while I’m on the Cybex machine. And there I am wearing headphones and listening to my MP3 player. The music serves to keep the ideas all flowing in my head.

Pen: Okay, now I feel guilty for not working out. (Think I'll make myself feel better by eating a gingerbread cookie.) I am very attracted to books with a theme about unique types of families and I definitely think this idea is addressed inRuling Eden. Did you know that would be one of the main themes of the book or did it sort of evolve from the plot?

Michelle: I knew that Rachel’s lack of family as she matured was a major issue for her. What I didn’t realize is how intensely she would feel about her three brothers as she discovered them, or her contradictory emotions about her deceased mother. Those evolved with the story. One of my first critique partners for this story had been adopted as a baby. Her perspective really raised interesting questions for me about how Rachel would relate to her brothers.

Pen: What fantasy/magic books inspired you when you were younger? What kind of books do you read now? What's your favorite book/author?

Michelle: The very first “fantasy” book I remember reading was The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle. I was in fifth grade and my teacher introduced it to the class. It sparked not only a fascination with Unicorns, one of which appears in Ruling Eden, and with Magicians, but also of the fantasy genre in general. Interestingly, although its not fantasy per se, Jean Auel’s Clan of the Cave Bear influenced my admiration of world building. For those of you unfamiliar with her stories, they are set in the time period of pre-modern man and deal with the possible interactions between what is supposed to be Cro-Magnon and Neanderthal man.

I still read fantasy voraciously, although the vast majority of it is urban fantasy. Choosing one favorite is difficult. Kim Harrison? My favorite more classic speculative history fantasy author is Jacqueline Carey. Very different kind of writing and slower paced, but rich characters and world building. My vote for a favorite fantasy world is Anne Bishop’s Black Jewels series story universe. And for romance fantasy I adore Marjorie Liu.

Pen: I LOVED Clan of the Cave Bear. That book rocks out! Of course, you know the next question is coming....have you ever watched Jean Luc Picard in Star Trek: The Next Generation? Yummy!! What's your favorite episode? Do you like Jean Luc? Why? Is he your kind of hero?

Michelle: God yes. I’m a big fan. Jean Luc is yummy, yummy, yummy. I know your penchant for hair on your heroes, Penelope, and he certainly lacks much, but I’m not so hung up. He is noble and commanding, but with a warmth he doesn’t try to hide at the important moments. And I just love how he tugs down his uniform as one of his mannerisms. I usually go for darker heroes than him, but the Next Generation creators worked magic when they created Captain Picard. Come to think of it, Gabriel’s past may be darker, but he does share some of the major characteristics of Jean Luc. Most of the heroes I write are noble types, the kind that struggle with their dark sides to do the right thing. Favorite episode? Probably one with the Borg.

Pen: How hot did Jean Luc look when he was transformed into the Borg? Oh yeah, digging that!!! I do love the whole beard thing, but a bald guy with that awesome accent...that's a close second for fantabulosity (I just made up a new word!).  

Okay, tell me one quirky thing about you (Michelle is a member of The Quirky Ladies group). What's your favorite cocktail? How do you feel about Hugh Jackman, Eric Bana? Any guy you find delish who inspires your heroes?

Michelle: If you visit The Quirky Ladies blog where we all posted quirky facts about ourselves, then you’ll read about my funny honeymoon story. My husband (fiancée at the time) wanted to surprise me with our honeymoon destination. We’d both wanted to go to Italy, but he told me it was too expensive and we agreed upon London. I was all set to go and he informed me he found a cheap flight, but the catch was we had to fly through Germany. I was the only person in the universe who considered it reasonable to be flying to London from the East Coast of the US via a change of planes in Frankfort. My husband told me our true destination, Venice, when we arrived in Germany and I tried to ask for the connecting gate to London. I’m that gullible. But, hey, I got a great surprise out of it.

Favorite cocktail is Kahlua and Cream. I have a wicked sweet tooth. And I whole-heartedly endorse anything involving Hugh or Eric. Sexy men. They’ve both been visual inspirations for some of the heroes I’ve written. Is it hot in here, Penelope?

Pen: Super hot!!! (fan, fan, fan). What's next for Rachel, next on the horizon for Michelle Picard?

Michelle: Well, the second book of what is likely a four book Eden series has been written. It continues Rachel’s story and introduces more conflict. Not that saving the world isn’t conflict enough. It’s titled Surviving Eden and I am waiting for my editor at Crescent Moon Press to tell me whether they are interested in it.

If they contract it, I suppose it’s on to the third book in the run, which I’ve tentatively entitled Recasting Eden. I intend to resolve not only Rachel’s issues and her love story with Gabriel, but the major issues and love interests for the strongest of her supporting characters. These include her two single brothers and her guardsmen, Tarn and Sebastian.  I love those guys and they deserve happy endings. Plus, Rachel will save the world. You know how that goes (grin).

Pen: That sounds fantastic, Michelle. Thanks so much for chatting with me today. One lucky reader will receive a print copy of Ruling Eden, so please leave a message for Michelle! Here are some other cool links....

Buy Ruling Eden!

Michelle's website

Michelle's blog....She is running another contest here. Stop by to check it out!

The Quirky Ladies

Monday, November 23, 2009

Klaus Brothers Invasion Final Day: Nicholas and Wolfgang!


Ten days until Sweet Inspiration is released! Woo hoo! I am totally stoked that my debut novel, a light paranormal Christmas romance featuring Santa and his five sexy sons (Nicholas, Sven, Wolfgang, Gregor and Oskar), will be available for purchase on 12-02-09. Look for it at The Wild Rose Press website. To help us celebrate, Wolfgang and Nicholas Klaus are visiting Penelope's today and giving away an Amazon gift card and a sweet holiday treat from Crate and Barrel to two lucky commenters. Don't forget to leave a message for Wolfgang, Director of Charitable Donations and general do-gooder, and Nicholas, master pastry chef, owner of Klaus Küche, and hero of Sweet Inspiration

[Wolfgang, Nicholas and I are hanging out in my kitchen while I get a little cooking lesson...]
❅❅❅

Wolfgang: (whispering) Nick, do you have any idea why Penelope is staring at me?

Nicholas: (looks up from a bowl of gingerbread batter) Um, yes. She's staring at your beard.

Wolfie: That's weird. Now she's staring at your beard, and she has a sort of dreamy look in her eyes.

Nick: (chuckles) Yes, well, Penelope has a fondness for beards, shall we say. Uh, Penelope, would you like to help with the gingerbread batter?

Wolfie: Yo, Penelope!

Pen: (dazed) Huh? Oh yes, of course, what do you need?

Nick: Why don't you grab the molasses and cloves? I know your kids will be thrilled to have a fresh batch of gingerbread cookies when they get home from school. 

Pen: Thanks, Nicholas. That is really sweet. (passes Nicholas bottle of hot sauce)

Nicholas: Penelope, you seem a bit distracted today. Is everything okay?

Pen: Um, yeah, of course. It's just not everyday that I have two hunky Klaus brothers in my kitchen, both sporting hot holly and ivy tats on their big, bulging biceps, and both with such delicious beards. It's a little unsettling. But, in a good way. A really, really good way. 

Nicholas: Well, I think you should really pay attention to our cooking lesson. Your kids informed me earlier that you have a problem burning baked goods.

Pen: What!! Very rarely, every once in a while, once in a blue moon....I might burn a batch of cookies. Rarely.

Wolfie: (tosses Nick a bottle of molasses) Your kids told us you burn them every time.

Pen: That is a bald-faced lie! I personally like my cookies well-done. What a bunch of whiners!

Nicholas: (raises left eyebrow) Hmm. Well, why don't you pay attention and maybe we'll improve the odds of you making some edible cookies this Christmas, okay? First we pre-heat the oven to 350...

Pen: Pre-heating is so irritating! Who the heck wants to wait around for 30 minutes for the damned professional Viking oven to pre-heat? For the love of God, it takes forever. I really don't have the patience for that.

Wolfgang: (laughs)

Nicholas: I think I know why you're burning the cookies, Penelope....

Pen: Well, enough about me. Nicholas, how's the preparation for Christmas coming along? My readers might not know it, but you run a massive bakery in the North Pole. What's your specialty?

Nicholas: Thank you, Penelope. I am quite proud of Klaus Küche. It's a state-of-the-art kitchen with the latest appliances and gadgets, and the added benefit of elfin magic as well. Our specialty is Christmas cookies, of course. I have a large number of elves who help with cookie production. We also manufacture candies and other sweets for the holidays. I tend to be a bit particular about the cookies...for instance, I like my gingerbread cookies nice and thick and chewy, not too thin and crispy. 

Pen: Ohh, me, too. You're lucky to have so many elves there to help out. What sort of magic do the elves use at Klaus Küche? 

Nicholas: Well, the elves have put a new spin on the concept of a gingerbread house, and created a gingerbread city. It's called the Pfefferkuchen room, and well...it is really something special. 

Wolfgang: First batch of cookies in the oven, Nick. 

Pen: Yum, those smell delicious! Wolfie, do you use elfin magic for your job, too? It must be sort of tough being in charge of charitable donations. Klaus Enterprises seems to be involved in quite a few projects.

Wolfie: Actually, we wouldn't be able to accomplish so much if it weren't for the elves. I can be in the Philippines one morning, helping out with food donations at a Catholic orphanage, and then in Guatemala to oversee the new school we're building, and finish up the day in the pediatric wing of a children's hospital in New England. Using the magic sleighs to jet around is a huge bonus. All of my elf "employees" are super dedicated to their jobs, and to making sure a lot of underprivileged and special-needs kids get some extra attention for the holidays.

Pen: That is totally cool, Wolfie. You must be wiped out by the end of the year. Any fun plans for 2010?

Oskar: Oh yeah. Las Vegas, here we come! (high fives Wolf) Whad up, bro? 

Sven: That smells good...gingerbread. Excellent.

Wolfie: I don't know about the Vegas trip, O. Last time I barely survived.

Gregor: Oskar promised to "tone it down" this year. (All the brothers howl with laughter)

Nicholas: I'll consider it. There's an excellent new restaurant in Vegas I'd like to check out. Penelope, have you been enjoying this season of Top Chef in Las Vegas?

Pen: Oh my God! Yes!!!! I'm on Team Kevin. You know, the guy with that rockin' beard....

Oskar: What a shocker. Penny's rooting for the guy with the beard....

Pen: Very funny, O. Kevin happens to be an incredible chef, too.

Gregor: (texting on his blackberry) Have you brewed any coffee to go with the cookies, Pen? How about those nice Tanzanian peaberry beans I got you?

Pen: No, Greg, I'm drinking a gingerbread latte. Sven, nice green and red tie-dye for the holidays. Very festive. Oskar, quit eating all of the batter. My daughter will challenge you to a celebrity death match for that. And you'll lose, believe me. 

Nicholas: Since the elves are not here, I'm putting you guys to work. Sven and Wolfie, you're on frosting patrol. Oskar and Gregor, start decorating. Penelope...hmm....

Pen: I know! I'll eat the broken pieces.

Nicholas: Actually, I use the broken pieces to make gingerbread cookie crust for my pies. But that was a good try, seriously.

Pen: (Sigh) Okay, how about I read a romance novel while you guys work? And then I'll be Official Taste Tester of the Gingerbread.

Nicholas: (raises eyebrow) All right. Just stay out of trouble. How about we post our recipe for gingerbread men for your readers? They might like to try these at home.

Pen: Great idea, Nicholas. Okay, here's St. Nick's Gingerbread Men recipe...

2 and 1/3 c. flour
2 t. ground ginger
1 and 1/2 t ground cinnamon
1/2 t. baking soda
1/4 t. ground cloves
1/4 t. salt
3/4 c. (1 and 1/2 sticks) butter, room temp
1/2 c. packed dark brown sugar
1/2 c. light molasses
1 large egg

Sift first six ingredients together. Using an electric mixer, beat butter, sugar and molasses in a large bowl until fluffy, then beat in the egg. Add the dry ingredients, stir to combine. Gather the dough into a ball and divide into 3 pieces. Flatten each piece into a disk, wrap it in plastic wrap and chill until firm, about one hour.

Preheat oven to 375°. Grease cookie sheets. Roll out disk of dough onto floured surface to 1/4" thick. Cut out gingerbread men with cookie cutters, and then place about 1" apart on the cookie sheet. Bake for approximately 10 minutes. 

Hint from Penelope: When cookies have cooled, put out store bought containers of Betty Crocker icing, and bowls of candy for decorations. Then invite friends and family to decorate the gingerbread men. Good times! :)
❅❅❅


Pen: Thanks, Nicholas. And special thanks to all of the Klaus Brothers for stopping by. Please don't forget to leave a message to enter the contest today. Nicholas and Wolfie are giving away an Amazon gift card as well as some gingerbread cookies from Crate and Barrel. And a special huge-ass thanks to all of my friends and followers for their support over the last year. I can't believe that release day is almost here. Y'ins guys are the best!!! ☃☃☃☃☃

Friday, November 20, 2009

Contests! Interviews! Fire Engines!


Okay, the fire engines may have been a slight exaggeration. But the contests and interviews are for real. Monday, November 23 is the final day of the Klaus Brothers Invasion. Penelope is hosting Nicholas Klaus (master pastry chef and hero of Sweet Inspiration, my debut novel) and Wolfgang Klaus (Director of Charitable Donations for Klaus Enterprises and general do-gooder) for an interview and give-away. (Something tells me the other brothers are gonna show up, too!) Two lucky commenters will win prizes: one is an Amazon gift card and the other is a sweet holiday treat from Crate and Barrel. Please stop by and leave a message for the Klaus boys. I can't believe my book is coming out in less than 2 weeks! Yikes.

Then, on Tuesday Nov. 24, I am visiting with Michelle Picard, author of Ruling Eden, a new release by Crescent Moon Press. It's a wonderful fantasy/romance with a hot half-angel/half-demon named Gabriel (yowzah!) and a kick-ass heroine, Rachel. Michelle will be discussing writing, dragons, and of course, Star Trek (I love you, Jean Luc!!!). We'll be giving away a print copy of her book so please stop by to chat.

Hope everyone has a great weekend,
Penelope

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Quickie Reviews: Shelter Mountain and The Rules of Seduction


Happy Wednesday to all! The last couple of weeks have been a bit bumpy reading-wise. As you can tell from my Monday morning rant, I read a contemporary that irritated me no end with the sundry, boring details of everyday life. I also read 2 alien romances which have thrown me for a loop. Aliens and romance seem like a weird combination. These books are truly splicing together sci fi and romance, and I'm not quite sure I'm on board for that. For some reason, more "standard" paranormals, with vampires and werewolves, work better for me. The alien stories had action and sex, but I felt like they were missing a key element: romance. (Just as an aside, I do not review every book I read. When I read a book that I adore, I write a review. When I read a book that really disappoints me, I usually get irked enough to write something about it. When I read a book that's so-so, I could care less.)

On the up side of the week, I read two awesome books by authors new to me. The first one is Shelter Mountain by Robyn Carr. (This is the second of the Virgin River Series and was recommended to me by some nice folks on the Amazon boards). Although I am not a big contemporary-lover, this book really sang for me. Carr has created some amazing characters. Preacher is a fantastic hero, right up my alley. From the very first chapter, I was totally hooked on him, and on the story itself. (He is a big, bald, sexy gentle giant of a man. Swooning!!!!) His touching, slow-simmering romance with Paige is wonderful, his loving acceptance of her little boy is heart-warming. I love how patient he is with Paige in the first chapter, coaxing this bruised and battered woman into finally telling him her name. I am seriously in love with Preacher. He is up for the Number One Hero of 2009 Award.

One minor complaint is that Carr's "secondary" characters took center stage a bit too often...I wanted more of Paige and Preacher.  I also didn't love the whole my-abusive-husband-is-gonna-show-up-at-any-minute-and-wreak-some-havoc thing going on, but again, that's a minor complaint. I can't wait to read Virgin River and Whispering Rock, the others in this series. 
Grade: B+

I attended a fantastic workshop at the New Jersey RWA conference this October, which addressed the importance of conflict in romance. Madeline Hunter gave the kicky-ass lecture, and made me curious about her own novels. So, I had a nice little chat with her at the book sale, and purchased The Rules of Seduction, a historical romance. It has a no-nonsense heroine with violet eyes (like it!), a tortured, mathematically brilliant hero (love it!), several fascinating brothers promising more cool stories in the series (always a big plus for moi), a nice conflict complete with a big surprise at the end (didn't see that one coming!), and very intriguing love scenes, beautifully written and powerfully emotional. I really am digging Madeline Hunter's love scenes. I found this book very satisfying because it had the one thing the alien books were sadly lacking...romance. I definitely recommend it, and I already ordered another one in the series, The Sins of Lord Easterbrook.
Grade: B+

Hope everyone is having a happy reading week, and is dreaming of turkeys and pumpkin pie and maybe a mug of hot cider spiked with a little bit of apple brandy...
Penelope

Monday, November 16, 2009

Monday Morning Announcements!


First up....Wolfgang Klaus was called out of town for a business-related emergency. So, unfortunately, he will not be able to join us this morning for the Klaus Brothers Invasion. He is extremely apologetic. (That's his photo at the top of the post. The Klaus boys seem to have some trouble keeping their shirts on. Hmm.) Wolfie will be joining us next Monday (Dec. 23) with his brother Nicholas for the final day of the Invasion, and TWO winners will be chosen. Penelope will be giving away another Amazon gift card, as well as a sweet holiday treat from Nicholas. Special congrats to Natascha who won last week's gift card from Sven.

My other announcement is very short rant about contemporaries. Why the hell do the authors of contemporary romances have to include every damned detail of their characters' lives? I don't care if Muffy ate a ham and cheese sammie for lunch. And I really don't care about Gigi's list of errands she has to run during the day. Do I need 14 paragraphs describing how Sandy juggles her laundry list of to-do items, including, well...laundry. Christ on a Crutch. I have my own freaking laundry list of to-do items each day, including laundry!, and I'm not reading a romance novel to remind me of all the crap I'm procrastinating about. Sheesh. Major, major pet peeve and one of the reasons I am reluctant to read contemporaries. Leave out the extraneous info, please!

Final quick note: I did read a contemporary last week I LOVED, Shelter Mountain by Robyn Carr. My only beef about this book is that it didn't focus enough on just Preacher and Paige, but I still loved it, and Preacher is one of my new favorite heroes of 2009! Review to follow (after I finish the freaking laundry!)

Penelope

Friday, November 13, 2009

Beard of the Day

Okay, so it's not just the beard. It's the hairy chest, bulging pectoral muscles and six-pack abs, and wet and wild awe-inspiring state of being. Hugh. The Man. The Myth. The reason I fell in love with beards.
Enjoy!
Happy Friday,
Penelope

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Congrats, Natascha!


Congrats, Natascha! You have won the Amazon gift card from Sven this week. Thanks so much to everyone who stopped by for Sven's interview. I am eagerly awaiting my package from Amazon with Shelter Mountain, by Robyn Carr. It was recommended to me by some nice folks on the Ami boards. Can't wait to read it! Since the kids are home for the holiday, I guess I will have to sneak into the bathroom and hide out for a bit! :)

Happy Veteran's Day,
Penelope

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Most Absurd Conflict Ever and Other Fun Stuff

I just gobbled up a bunch of books in the last several days. Elizabeth Hoyt's To Desire A Devil, Amanda Quick's With This Ring, and An Affair Before Christmas by Eloisa James. 


In a nutshell....
Amanda Quick is the master of the universe. The first 13 pages of With This Ring are absolute perfection. Her writing never ceases to amaze me...she can nail an entire scene with a single word. Everything about this book is perfect...the storyline is tight, the characters are larger than life, the mystery engaging, the humor is spot on. Leo, the Mad Monk of Monkcrest, and Beatrice, secret author of "horrid novels," are a fantastic pairing. Honestly, I just cannot get enough of Amanda Quick's romances. 

Elizabeth Hoyt's To Desire A Devil was a good ending to the series. Not as good as To Beguile A Beast, which I adored. I had a problem with Reynauld ripping off his shirt in the House of Lords to expose the scars on his back. This scene did not ring true for me. However, I really enjoyed the backstory about Reynaud's experience in the colonies. What attracted me initially to EH's writing is that her historicals are a little bit edgy, earthy, lusty, sometimes downright nasty (in a good way). I love the juxtaposition of the formality of Regency England and the lusty sexuality of her characters. However, this book seemed more like a traditional historical to me, it was definitely lacking the intense sexuality found in To Beguile A Beast. 

As of yesterday, I have discovered the most ludicrous central conflict ever to grace a romance novel. 

A hairdo.

Yes, that is correct. Eloisa James' An Affair Before Christmas explores the failing marriage of Poppy and the Duke of Fletcher. Why, you ask, is their marriage failing? Well, Fletch thinks Poppy is frigid in bed, when in actuality, her hair is itchy and she is unable to concentrate on the pleasure he is attempting to give her. 

(Yes, I was speechless, too). Hee hee hee heeeeee.....Oh my goodness, this is so absurd it is delicious. Truly!

In Poppy's defense, her hairdo is one of those big, perfumed, powdered monstrosities, with glued-on feathers, etc. And there are a few other reasons the marriage is not working out, but suffice it to say, once the hair conflict is resolved, everything else "falls into place"--pun intended. In spite of an overabundance of sub-plots involving dukes, duchesses, mother-in-laws from hell, etc., Eloisa James manages to spin a remarkably romantic tale. I was completely engrossed in Fletcher's determination to win back the woman he loved. The end is very sweet and satisfying and very romantic. I just adored this snippet of dialogue....

*****

"Poppy, what did you think that Christmas was for?"

"Nibbling on gingerbread men?" she whispered.

"I'm your Christmas gingerbread man," he said.....

*****

Love it! What a great line! :)

Thanks to everyone who stopped by for Sven's interview yesterday. A winner will be announced soon.
Penelope

Monday, November 9, 2009

Klaus Brother's Invasion Week 3: Sven Klaus


The Klaus Brother's Invasion continues at Penelope's. This week toy designing, tree-hugging, Birkenstock-wearing, hunky blond hippy Sven Klaus is joining us. He is one of the five Klaus brothers (Nicholas, Sven, Gregor,Oskar and Wolfgang) in my debut novel Sweet Inspiration, which will be released on 12-02-09 by The Wild Rose Press. Sven is into wood-working, tie-dying T-shirts, and saving the environment. He already looked through my recycling area and scolded me. I'm in serious doo-doo when he finds my paper plates.

One lucky commenter will be winning an Amazon gift card, so please feel free to leave a message for Sven!

[FYI, Sven is wearing ripped blue jeans with his Birkies, a very brightly colored tie-dyed T-shirt with Ben and Jerry on the front, his shoulder-length blond hair is looking shaggy and delicious, and he has some luscious scruff on his face that makes me want to jump with joy. And I can see his rockin' arm-band tat of holly and ivy with the old-world letter "K" in the middle. Nice biceps. Is it getting hot in here???]
*****

Penelope: Hi Sven! Thanks for joining us today at Penelope's. I know you're swamped with work in Glasdorf right now, trying to get ready for the Christmas season.

Sven: Yeah. The cool thing is how many kids still like to get good old-fashioned wooden toys. You'd think that the video extravaganza would make the wooden stuff obsolete, but we still get a lot of orders for toy trains. They're classic.

Pen: Do you feel uncomfortable using trees, a natural resource, to make toys? Doesn't that offend your environmental sensibility?

Sven: (laughing) You get right to the heart of the matter, eh, Pen? Still pissed I yelled at you about your paper plate collection?

Pen: Just saying, you should put your money where your mouth is....

Sven: We plant ten trees for every one used to make toys at the workshop, Miss Smarty Pants. And, thanks to a little bit of elfin magik, we can accelerate their growth. We actually have an incredibly diverse forest of deciduous trees in Glasdorf that my forestry engineers oversee. I like to have a nice selection of woods for my designs, all different colors and textures.

Pen: (grumbling) Big deal. You plant some trees. I recycle.

Sven: I noticed the large assortment of beer bottles in your glass bin. Corona, Magic Hat, Beck's, Pumpkin Ale....

Pen: Give me a break, Sven! First of all, I just had a party and that's why there are so many bottles this week. And second of all, I know you and your brothers are regular beer drinkers at Dag's Bar in the North Pole. Although I've heard the elves can drink the Klaus Boys under the table.

Wolfgang: True. Especially Monie and his buds. You know you're in trouble when he starts playing ZZ Top on the jukebox. 

Sven: I won't deny our love for Dag's. He uses some sort of magic when he brews up those pale ales. They are tasty.

Oskar: Hey Pen. Sven probably hasn't told you, but he rocks at Quarters. If he ever challenges you to a game, take a pass. Or you'll be passed out in no time.

Sven: They're exaggerating.

Pen: Hmm. I'll avoid engaging Sven in drinking games, for sure. Thanks for the heads up, O.

O: No problem. Sven, mom is stoked about the new rocker you made for her. Penny, check this out.

Pen: Oh My God, this is gorgeous, Sven. How did you make this star design on the rocker?

Sven: Thanks, Penny. I had a really good time working on this project. The main part of the rocker is made from quilted Pacific Maple, and the star in-lay is composed of three different woods: Lacewood, Cherry and Madrone.

Pen: Wow! I love the different colors and textures. Your mom must be thrilled that all of her furniture is hand-built and designed by you.

Sven: Yeah, my mom's a sweetheart. She also likes to tie dye T-shirts for my collection. 

Wolfgang: Uh oh. I just found some cans in Penny's regular garbage.

Pen: Wolfie! What the heck are you doing, Mr. Garbage Police! Trying to get me in more trouble with Eco-Buddy over here?

Wolfie: (laughing) Just keeping you on your toes, that's all.

Sven: Damn it, Penny. You are so damned lazy...all you have to do is rinse them out...

O: I have an idea. Why don't we all tie dye some T-shirts? The elfin kids are having a party this weekend and they love to dress up.

Pen: Thanks for the change of subject, O.

O: You owe me.

Wolf: (laughing) Great idea, O. I can take some with me to the pediatric center at the hospital. (high fives Oskar)

Sven: Cool. Mom has some environmentally friendly botanical dyes. I'll get the stuff we need. You guys wrangle up the T-shirts. And Penny....

Pen: Yes?

Sven: We'll be re-sorting your garbage later. Don't think you're getting out of it.

Pen: (groans) Fine. 

Please leave a message for Sven while we tie dye T-shirts. He would love to hear from you! Congrats to Patti who won our Ami gift card last week.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Beard Of The Day


As we all know, Penelope has a fierce fondness for beards. She finds it shocking that a great number of women are still reluctant to embrace the deliciousness of facial hair. So, I have decided to implement a new subtle strategy to convert these "anti-beard" individuals over to the dark side. By posting delicious hunk-aramas sporting beards/staches/goatees, etc. I am hoping to rope in some converts. 

Beard of the Day for Nov. 6, 2009 is compliments of Gerard Butler. Nicely trimmed, excellent scruffy texture. I give it an A+! (And the sad, puppy-dog eyes are a nice touch, too!)

Penelope

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Awards, Honesty and Mindless Botanical Knowledge


Thanks to Patti at Book Addict for this award. I am supposed to pick 7 blogs to pass this along to, and then list 10 honest things about myself. Well, the blogs I would have picked have already won the award, and I feel sort of uncomfortable only picking 7. I read a lot of blogs, and a nice chunk of them can be seen in my sidebar. So please take a look. In addition to some really fun romance blogs (some are serious, some are irreverent, some are silly, and some are informational....and oh yeah, some are crude, rude and make me laugh!), I also have some writer's blogs, and some non-romance blogs, such as The Long and Short Of It All (a great dachshund site) and Please Pack Your Knives And Go (a Top Chef site which is hilarious). I will now attempt to write 10 honest things about myself.

1. I have been known to huddle inside the bathroom with a romance novel to avoid my children. 
2. I met my husband in organic chemistry lab (he was the lab intern).  I got a D- in organic chemistry. My husband won the organic chemistry award at graduation. I guess opposites attract.
3. Sometimes I skip meals and instead drink a gingerbread latte from Starbucks. Same number of calories.
4. My daughter and I like to play Britney Spears' videos and dance around my office.
5. I don't write because I have to, because it is my destiny, or because I have people talking in my head. I write because it's fun.
6. My dream is to live in a shack in Vermont.
7. I have a wee, little obsession with beards. (Picture Hugh Jackman as Wolverine). Get it?
8. I adore dachshunds, and when I see strangers on the street walking their wiener dogs I squeal with happiness.
9. I have a master's degree in plant taxonomy, and I pretty much know the Latin names for every freaking plant I see. Which is pretty much taking up a lot of brain cells for no apparent reason.
10. I haven't read a non-romance book in at least 5 years. Which drives my husband nuts. But it makes me very happy! :)

I am hoping to finish To Desire A Devil today. I read the second half first, and the first half second, and now I'm reading the whole damned thing. What a muddle. At least the swine flu epidemic has temporarily vacated my household. Sheesh! I'm pretty damned close to sending my kids to school in astronaut gear. Maybe that would help.
Penelope