Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Penny Pens A Poem


In keeping with the Heart Month theme, I decided to pen my first poem since my college days. I've been inspired by Natasha Gdansk (the lost beat)--I especially love her poem Cockamamie--and Tom Andrews (deranged poet/flash fiction/short story writer, and staunch defender of the classic martini)--here is his latest poem, off the coast.  

Um, don't read their poems before you read mine. After, okay? :^)

Anyhow, here is the initial feedback about my poem....

"Interesting piece of poetry."
"It was rather traumatic, but I love the happy ending."
"Are you sure this isn't about coca-cola?"

So, without further ado, here is...... Timeline of a Heart Attack.



Timeline of a Heart Attack

Bubbling
Boiling
Blub glub glub
Gurgle….belch

Splatter
Drip drip slip
Splash, bash
Crispy crunch

Flaky, buttery slub
Crumble
Humble

Roaring, pouring
Dire fire, spiral
Twist and stuck
Sticky tack

Tingling
Ringing
Ripping
Crippling

Stagger to step
Fuzzy sand
Unhand

Metal mesh
Mechanical tick
Crunch and rip
Flow, pump, rumbling banks

Streaming, streaming
Swish and swash
Rush

Pop, pop
Babbling fizz
Pip pip zing
Bubbling

Sing



***********

You're speechless! Hee hee heeeeeeee.....

On the reading front, I just finished a quickie re-read of Dark Legend, and I am finally ready to start my new pile of books. Finally!

Don't forget....tonight is the big show-down on Top Chef! GO PAUL!

Ciao,
Penny

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

February is Heart Month!


Yikes! I almost missed Heart Month!

With only days to spare, here are some Tips for Heart Health from the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center CardioVascular Institute. Stay healthy out there!


1. Schedule a check-up....don't avoid your doctor. (Like I used to do). Ignoring your health will not prevent a heart attack.

2. Eat your fish....I eat salmon at least once a week. Omega-3 fatty acids are good for your heart.

3. Get up and move..... Exercise, baby! Walk every day for a strong heart.

4. Cut down on salt.... excess salt puts pressure on your blood vessels and heart. Avoid processed food and fast food. Eat fresh!

5. Avoid trans fats....That means no McDonald's french fries (*sob, sob...oh, how I miss you!*). (ETA: Evidently, McDonald's fries no longer have trans fat, but still have saturated fat...also bad. Bad fries! Bad!) Eat good fats instead--from nuts, seeds, plants and fish.

6. Cut 100 calories a day.....it's an easy way to lose weight. Simple way to do that is cut out calorie-laden drinks, and just have water.

7. Quit smoking....it increases your risk for heart attack or stroke. 

Most important advice for romance-lovers....take care of your heart! ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

All my best,
Penelope

Monday, February 27, 2012

A-Neg, Where The Hecka Are You?


Monday Matters Of Business....

1.) A-Neg, Where Art Thou? You won a copy of Restless in the Grave, but I can't find you! Please contact me ASAP for your copy of the book. Otherwise, I will have to choose a new winner. Call me, baby!

2.) Best dress at the Oscar's.....Jessica Chastain's Alexander McQueen gown. Oh. My. God. Gor-geous!!!!!! Also, perfect hair and jewelry. New girl crush for Penelope!

3.) The Walking Dead.....blah. The zombies aren't even scary any more. They're like props with eyeballs hanging out. Seriously. Losing the magic here. Pacing is off. Blah. 

4.) Kids are back to school today. My to-do list has 20 things on it....ugh! Back to reading, writing and more writing for me. And I guess for the kids, too. :^)

5.) Appointment with the cardiologist this morning...haven't seen her for a year. Here's hoping for a clean bill of health!

Hope all yinz have a good week,
Penelope

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Martini Club: KMont's Appletini



Slurp, slurp, slurp........

Oh, hi! Time for another round of The Martini Club, compliments of Kmont, from Full Fork Ahead (rockin' foodie blog) and Lurv a la Mode (a beautiful and very thoughtful book blog). KMont is my first guest, and she decided to celebrate the grand opening of The Martini Club with one of my favorite martini recipes....the appletini. The Quirky Ladies (my critique group) has been known to enjoy a few cocktails in our day (hee hee) and the appletini is one of our go-to drinks. (Especially Victoria Morgan, who throws a great party). Anyhoo, if you're interested in mixing up your very own appletini, check out this recipe. I LOVE the presentation for these drinks, in the gorgeous green glasses with the apple garnish. If KMont was on Top Chef, I would say.....Bravo! (I would say it anyway....Bravo, Kmont!)

And now for our recipe......


*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Appletinis

First of all, thanks so much, Penny, for having me on your blog today to open up your new Martini Club! I'm looking forward to trying out the other drinks that pop up here over the next several weeks. When you asked if I'd like to contribute, appletinis came to mind immediately. They're really a pretty basic drink, but they're a fun one, too, and a staple on most bar menus. I had my first one however on a weekend trip to see some folks on hubby's side of the family and fell in love with not only the bright, vivid green color but the wow factor on my tongue as well. And let's face it - they're hella damn good for relaxing after a long, tiresome week of ye old rat race. I mean...really good. My husband's cousin made us the drinks, and while her version was good, I tend to be a sweeter girly drink guzzler. Feel free to dial back the sweetness in these, but for me, it's juuuust right.

1 ounce vodka
1 1/2 ounces DeKuyper Sour Apple Pucker
1 1/2 ounces apple juice
Apple wedges for garnish (optional)

Fill a serving glass with ice and water (to chill the glass).

Fill a martini shaker with ice. Measure out and pour in the vodka, sour apple pucker and juice and place in the shaker. Tightly seal the lid on the shaker and with a kitchen towel wrapped around the top and bottom, shake in a quick motion over the shoulder (parallel to the floor - this makes you look like a bartender shaking to the bar music, it's quite cool) for about thirty seconds.

Discard the ice water from serving glass and pour in the appletini. Garnish with an apple wedge if desired (I rarely do, it delays the drink) and enjoy!

(To make these less sweet, omit the extra half ounce of sour apple pucker and apple juice.)

If anyone's curious, I use Absolute brand vodka, but there's a reason The BDB brotherhood's official vodka is Grey Goose. That stuff is like the vodka of dreams come true, but it's mighty pricey. Too pricey for me!

Thanks again, Penny!

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

I'm shaking! I'm shaking! Oh, hi again. Just following Kenda's directions. Sunday dinner will be delicious. I'm having Spaghetti with Pesto and Shrimp (her latest recipe), following cocktail hour. Yum!

Huge thanks to KMont for her excellent post. Be sure to stop by next week, for a fabulous piece of flash fiction by Tom Andrews called Cocktail (the Movie), with his "holy manhattan" recipe. He is deranged!


Sloppy Sundays To All!
Penelope

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Icy Memories From 1989


Here's an icy blast from the past....Ice Ice Baby by Vanilla Ice. In 1989, he was a punk. In 2012, he has a home renovation show on the DIY network, called The Vanilla Project

I must admit.....I love his goofy dance moves in this vid.

"Take heed, coz I'm a lyrical poet...."


Happy Weekend, Yo!
Penelope

Friday, February 24, 2012

Beard of the Day


The thing about Justin Timberlake is that sometimes he looks oh so fine. (See above).




And sometimes....not. Gulp.




Fantastic! Nice scruff, nice intensity.




Haaaaaaaaaa!!!!!!!! Oh, Lordy!




Sweet! Give me some of that sweet potato pie, baby!




And my favorite fashion disaster of all time, times 2!


The coolest thing about Justin Timberlake is not his acting, or his singing, or even how sex-ay he looks with a beard. The best thing about him is that he can totally laugh at himself. Which I adore! Case in point......




Hee hee heee.....Love that one!

Happy Beardy Friday, 
Penelope

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Pretty! Shiny!


Another gorgeous cover from Mia Marlowe! Here's the blurb for this book, coming out March 1st.....

Every seduction begins with a touch....

Jacob Aubrey Preston has three hard and fast rules about the women he takes to his bed. They must be enthusiastic, slightly jaded and most of all, married. But Lady Julianne, the widowed Countess of Cambourne, tempts him to abandon that last requirement while he uses his unique gifts to help her find a magical set of Druid daggers. Like the ancient blades, the lady has secrets. And he's just the man to uncover them, one delectable layer at at time.....



I also LOVE the cover for Julia Rachel Barrett's newest release, In The Flesh. I think this guy looks like Gerard Butler, just from the chin. Here's the blurb for this new release, which is FREE right now on Amazon. Yee haw!

Lightning in the middle of a blizzard? Dr. Sydney Blake has read about it, but this is the first time in all her life she's experienced it. Has her truck been struck? Blinded by the flash, she slams on the brakes and dives from the driver's seat, right into a snow drift. As a shivering Syd gropes to her feet, she keeps her eyes shut tight, praying she didn't actually see what she thinks she saw in that flash of light...a golden giant standing smack dab in the middle of the road. No way. Not possible. Or is it?


Another pretty.....Rose McGowan's totally hot, sequiny dress she wore to the Charlie Chaplin party. Not sure what she's done to her face....which is unfortunate. But the dress is fabulous!




Hope everyone has a shiny day!
Penelope

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Penny Goes Shopping And Some Other Profound Items


1. Observation made yesterday, and discussed on Twitter and at Julia's blog....As I see it, if there was really a zombie apocalypse, all the surviving dudes would have beards. Seriously. Who would have time to shave? And not finely sculpted scruff, either. Big huge Paul Bunyan beards. Let's see what happens on The Walking Dead at AMC.....

2. I love how peeps get their panties in a bunch about certain terms....ebook, indie, author vs. writer, etc. I read a little ditty recently about the writer v. author thing (can't find the link, if anyone knows it, please tell me!), and I'm jumping right off that bandwagon. If anyone asks me what I do for a living, I tell them I'm a storyteller. Author and writer have some heavy connotations. Storyteller is sort of whimsical, romantic, and more about imagination than bestseller lists. That's me.

3. My 9 year old daughter ransacked my bedroom. She took all the good pillows, quilts, blankets, and accessories from my bed and put them in her room. (Her bed looks like the Princess and the Pea). Anyhow, I decided to perk up my room with a colorful new ensemble. Here are the before and after pics....


BEFORE: Blah. Daughter took all the good stuff and left me w/ nuttin!


AFTER: Schwing! Color! All new bedding. (Which I must now protect from Miss Lightfingers).
I'm also going to paint. What color? Blue? Teal? Purple?


4. Tonight is Top Chef Final Part 497. Just kidding. Sort of. They are dragging that baby out to the bitter, acidic end.

5. Wanna read some funky flash fiction? Check out these quickies from Tom Andrews (who I also discovered via Twitter)....love the writing, love his author headshot, and I love that he is a staunch defender of the classic martini.

Off to make coffee,
Penelope

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Winny McWinster of Restless in the Grave!


Thanks to everyone who entered the give-away for Restless in the Grave by Dana Stabenow! The winner is.....

A-NEG!!!!!!


A-Neg---please email me and let me know if you would like a print book or ebook, and what your address is. Congrats! Thanks so much for entering!

So far winter break is going great. Natty had a really fun cooking class yesterday morning. She made muffins, granola, a casserole, and parfaits. Yum! Cristian spent the day skateboarding and killing virtual zombies! Woo hoo!

Hopefully today I can sneak in some reading.

Happy Day,
Penelope

Monday, February 20, 2012

Oh My God! Someone Just Tried To Kill Me! Think I'll Whip Up A Batch of Cookies


I finally finished Crunch Time by Diane Mott Davidson. Her Goldy Bear Culinary Mystery Series is one I've enjoyed for many years. However, the quality of these books has been on a rollercoaster ride. Some of them are pretty good. Some of them are not. This was the worst I've read. There were way too many characters, too many storylines, and too many absolutely ridiculous events. Goldy's TSTL moments were out of control. No one thought is was weird having one of the main murder suspects stay at the primary investigator's house? Goldy's son almost kills a guy, is holding a bloody weapon, and Goldy pretty much ignores him and starts baking? Hee hee! There are no transitions here between the murder plot and the cooking. One moment, Goldy is bloody and unconscious, the next she's whipping up a coffee cake. The best part of this book? The recipes at the end. Natty and I are going to make the Crunch Time Cookies this week.

Grade: C- or less (cringe)

This is my kids' week of winter break. I have a huge TBR pile for books. Let's see how many I get to!

* In the Flesh by Julia Barrett! (yay, Julia!)
* Prince Charming, Inc. by Jamie Brazil
* Prince of Hearts by Katy Cooper
* Ride with Me by Ruthie Knox
* Touch of a Rogue by Mia Marlowe

Hope everyone has a wonderful week,
Penelope

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Introducing....The Martini Club


I think most folks following this blog know my quirky interests. Weenie dogs. Hugh Jackman. Lumberjacks. Gardening. 1980s music videos. Britney. The whole beardy thing. Romance novels, of course.

And last, but certainly not least, cocktails. I like wine. I like girly drinks with umbrellas. I like manly beers. I like frozen slushy drinks. I love sangria. The list goes on and on....

And so, I decided, that Sunday--in addition to being the day of rest, the day for church, the day for reading the Sunday paper, and the day for doing laundry--is now going to be the official meeting of The Martini Club. This is an open club. For anyone who enjoys cocktails, wine, beers, moonshine, non-alcoholic beverages, smoothies, etc. You name it, I'll include it. Nothing is too highbrow or lowbrow. I'll consider Iron City Beer (Go Stillers!), I'll consider the finest champagne from France.

Starting next week, I'll be inviting guests to my blog to discuss their favorite drinks, recipes, memories of college parties, visits to vineyards, etc. Reviewers, readers, bloggers, authors, and even people who don't like beards are more than welcome to join The Martini Club. (Although non-beard lovers may be required to watch a short, subliminal film before membership is approved.)

Anyhoo, my first guest will be KMont, who has a kick-ass foodie blog (Full Fork Ahead), and a totally cool book blog, too (Lurv a la Mode). She'll be stopping by next Sunday, Feb. 26. Other guests coming up soon are Carolyn Crane, Julia Rachel Barrett, and Casey Wyatt.

Today I'm posting an old favorite, the mango martini. Here's a true story. After I made my first mango martini, I was so excited that I jumped onto my bicycle and put my silver martini mixer (filled with mango martini) in my bike basket, and rode down the street to my friend's house. Yes, I sort of looked like the Wicked Witch from the Wizard of Oz, with a martini mixer in my bike basket.


So, anyway, I rode to my friend's house, whipped out the martini mixer, asked her for a glass, and poured her a drink. (She didn't appear to be that surprised that I had just ridden around the neighborhood with a cocktail in my basket. Go figure). Anyhow, she announced that it was sublime. And...it was.

Here's the recipe....

Mango Martini

2 oz. mango nectar
1 oz. mango rum
splash cranberry juice

Mix all ingredients with ice in a silver martini mixer. Shake well. Strain and pour into festive glass. Enjoy!

Welcome to The Martini Club! Anyone interested in joining, guesting, drinking, etc. please shoot me an email (penelope DOT romance AT gmail DOT com). Also, The Martini Club will actually meet in person at the NECRWA Spring Conference in Salem, MA this spring. Don't miss it!

Here's our perfect theme song....hee hee hee!


Hiccup,
Penelope

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Free To Be



This is an OLDIE. Yep, from 1972. Who remembers Free to Be...You and Me? I loved this album...there are wonderful songs/stories by Marlo Thomas, Alan  Alda, Rosey Grier and more. For some strange reason, I woke up this morning with this song in my head.

There's a land that I see where the children are free
And I say it ain't far to this land from where we are
Take my hand, come with me, where the children are free
Come with me, take my hand, and we'll live


Happy Weekend,
Penelope

Friday, February 17, 2012

Hugh Day, I Mean Beard of the Day!


Hugh With Scruff





Hugh With Hat




Hugh With Ginormous Biceps




Hugh With Magnificent Beard





Wishing "Hugh" A Wonderful Weekend!


Penelope





Thursday, February 16, 2012

Odds, Ends, and Beginnings



First....a couple of quickie reviews.....

Jillian's Job by Fran Lee

I was looking for a quick, hot read for Valentine's Day. This was quick. It was hot. It was also sort of ridiculous. For almost the whole story the heroine is insisting that she "hates" her boss, and her boss is insisting that he married her so he wouldn't lose his assistant (and of course to have easy access to round-the-clock hot sex) and then on the last page, they're all "We love each other!"

O-kay.

It is a cute, hot read, but the premise is ridic-a-less! I know....why am I whining about an erotic storyline? I'm an idiot!

Grade: B-

Changeling Moon by Dani Harper

This is my first book by this author, and it won't be the last. I was soooooo not expecting this. I had no idea Harper was such a good writer! I have been getting back into the whole werewolf thing lately, and this work is an excellent addition to the genre. The story is extremely well-written, with a tight, intriguing storyline. The characters were superb. There was just enough info about the werewolf pack and history to be interesting, but without the typical info dumps we sometimes get in these types of paranormal books. The pacing was spot-on, and I loved both the hero and heroine. Hot, sexy alpha werewolf.....sweet!

Grade: A

And finally, about "beginnings"......

There is nothing as formulaic as the "make-over" theme in romance. But here's the deal. Sometimes, it works. And sometimes, it falls flat on its fitted-sheath-and-stiletto-heels ass. But it's never, never, never going to work if it happens in the first couple of chapters. The only way it will work is if we see the heroine in her BEFORE state for a while, and get used to her frumpy clothes and see why she wears them, and how they are part of her comfortable old life. And then, maybe half-way through the story????? or at the end????? but NOT at the beginning of the book, she can have this big transformative moment and become Cinderella. If you put the make-over scene at the beginning of the book, the reader doesn't give a shizz.

Thus ends Penelope's rant for Thursday.....

Have a great day!
Penny

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

136 Years And Counting....


No, this is not a furry foot rest. Or a hat. Or an ewok. It's Malachy, a Pekingese, and the winner of Best in Show at the 136th Westminster Dog Show. For the 136th year, the dachshund group was thwarted in its attempt to win the trophy.

Thwarted by an ewok.

A wire-haired doxie actually WON the hound group. We had a chance! A fighting chance! But this shimmering, shaking ball of fur beat us. 

Here is Cinders the weenie dog.....


Cinders gave it all she had, but alas, it just wasn't enough. She wagged her tail throughout the competition and was described as "perky" and "confident." 

Next year, maybe she should dress up as an ewok.



I have a feeling......

The 137th Westminster Dog Show is going to be YEAR OF THE WEENIE DOG! 

Thinking I should re-watch Return of the Jedi,
Penelope

P.S. Don't forget, the give-away for Restless in the Grave is going on all week. Leave a comment to enter!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Review and Give-away for Restless in the Grave by Dana Stabenow


Review and Give-away! Happy Valentine's Day! I know, it might seem sort of weird to have a give-away for a murder mystery on Valentine's Day, but I am in LOVE with Liam Campbell. I am also in love with Dana Stabenow's newest book, Restless in the Grave. So actually, this is the perfect give-away from Penelope! Just leave a comment after the review, and you'll be entered. Give-away is open for a week, and the winner can choose either ebook or print book!

And away we go......

Review for Restless in the Grave by Dana Stabenow

First up, let me just say that Stabenow must be sweating bullets. Folks have been chomping at the bit for this book for a long, long time. Which means expectations are up. Which means, as an author, that you're worried about not living up to those expectations. As we all know, readers are a tough bunch. This book takes two of her larger-than-life characters, Alaskan state trooper Liam (from the Liam Campbell Series) and private investigator Kate (from the Kate Shugak Series) and puts them into one extraordinary book. Not only did this book meet my expectations, it surpassed them. In grand fashion. This book has the perfect balance of setting, characters, suspense, wit, gravity, and I-didn't-see-that-one-coming surprises. Plural. Because Stabenow heaps on the surprises at the end of this tale. Some are tragic, if not inevitable. And some are intriguing. And some catapult Kate into 007, Ms. Bad-Ass Heroine territory.

I love cozy mysteries...they're quick, light, and easy to digest. Some romantic suspense and straight up mysteries are too disturbing for me to read. And often, I find that the authors focus too much on the storyline, and not enough on the characters. The characters make the book. Period. No matter how clever the mystery is, if the characters don't have enough meat on their bones, the book is flat.

Stabenow's books are pure magic. Not only are her storylines clever, complex and chock full of cool tidbits (ranging from the Alaskan fishing industry, historical and cultural details, background about flying and airplanes, etc), but she makes the Alaskan setting come to life. And she should. She lives there. Everything about it is crystal clear....the funky people, the difficult economy, the brutal weather, the spectacular wildlife. Stabenow is in love with Alaska, and every word of her stories brings this fact to life. But the best part of her books, for me, showcases her talent with inventing real, gritty, complex characters. Kate is a ballsy bad-ass, but she is still a conflicted woman struggling with day-to-day problems. Liam is the most swoon-ilicious Alaskan state trooper ever....hot, hunky, sexy, loyal to his family. But also finely nuanced with many shades of gray. Stabenow is a master at creating real characters. And this is what propels her books to the top o' the mystery heap for me.

I was curious about how successful she would be mixing Kate and Liam together into one book. Would I be satisfied? Honestly, I could read 4,000 books about Liam and it wouldn't be enough, but I thought she did a pretty damned good job incorporating both Kate and Liam into this story. I would have liked a bit more Liam, of course....it's been too long since we had a Liam story, and I was ravenous. But, this was enough to satisfy my appetite. And watching Moses bully Kate into her yoga poses was brilliant. Seeing a character from Liam's world butt his way into Kate's world was spine-tingling cool. Even as Stabenow put this book on a path toward tragedy.

The ending of this book is the best ending I've read, probably ever. When I thought the book was over, she added on one more surprise. Then, another. Then, another. One was shocking and tragic. One was paranormal and intriguing. And one had the promise for a future romance. Honest to God, I couldn't stop smiling after I finished this book.

My expectations were high. And Restless in the Grave blew them right out of the water. Out of the frigid, icy Alaskan waters.

Grade: A

Planning my trip to Alaska and hoping to meet some beardy state troopers,
Penelope


Don't forget to leave a comment and enter the give-away! Happy Valentine's Day, chickies! :^)

ETA: Don't forget to include a link or email address if you want to enter the contest!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Almost the Day of Love!


One more day until Valentine's! Just a reminder....I am posting my review of Restless in the Grave tomorrow, and having a give-away for this fabulous book. Don't forget to stop by and leave a comment to enter the contest.

Also, I just finished another super werewolf story, Changeling Moon by Dani Harper. It's the first of a series, and I was extremely impressed with Harper's writing. I'm getting back into a werewolf-y phase lately, and this book was an excellent addition to the genre.

Hope everyone has a good start to the week,
Penelope


Sunday, February 12, 2012

Author Headshots


Recently I saw a blog post titled "Is Your Author Photo Sending the Right Message?" The author (K.M. Weiland) contrasts two author photos, one as being the professional standard we should all aspire to, the other as a miserable failure.

The "good": "...a professional headshot of a smiling woman standing against a picturesque red barn. She was dressed casually but professionally, her neat hair and makeup highlighted beneath appropriate lighting."

The "bad": "....what looked like a picture taken on the author's web cam. This author looked like he had just gotten out of bed and had yet to find his way to the nearest Starbucks. He didn't make eye contact with the camera, which resulted in a glazed, disoriented look. He was wearing a T-shirt. The setting behind him was a messy desk. And the faint lighting cast a shadowy and gloomy pall over the picture."

Now, I know the "rules" for author photos. For cripes sakes, I teach the rules about author photos. Get a professional headshot. Nothing weird, quirky, amateurish, etc.

But....as I read the above descriptions, all I could think was....the lady's shot sounded boring as hell, and the dude's photo sounded totally intriguing to me.

Everyone's headshot looks "professional".....but the truth is, there isn't a hell of a lot of personality going on there. Perfect hair and make-up. *yawn* Perfect lighting. She's standing next to a red barn? Is she a farmer or something? That sounds like a set-up, almost manipulative. Too perfect. And totally forgettable.

Now, the "bad" example sounds great to me (I wish a photo had been included!)....the messy desk, the T-shirt, him looking grumpy. This sounds totally authentic. Because, let's face it, most authors are grumpy and messy.

A long time ago, I saw a photo of Danielle Steel in her luxurious, gorgeous home and office, and I laughed my ass off. Um, sure. How many authors do you know who look like this when they're writing, and whose homes look like this.....


I didn't look that good on my freakin' wedding day! And her house looks like a 5-star luxury hotel.

Most authors I know have a desk squeezed into the corner of some room, loaded up with toys, papers, books, and maybe some lumberjack figurines (what?). My office has lego pieces, American girl doll clothes, glitter explosions, and junk everywhere. I'm keeping it real, baby! I would feel like a fraud if I got all dressed up, hair and make-up done, and posed in some sort of serene manner for my author photo. Because that's not me. At all. I like author headshots that you can tell really capture the writer's real personality. 

I LOVE this one....


Such an awesome photo of Stephen King. He's got that mischievous, naughty little boy look that is so spot-on. 

Another great one is Gail Carriger's....


This photo captures the essence of steampunk romance author Gail....quirky, formal, humorous. It's fabulous.

Another fantastic head shot is Skyler White's photo....she is a paranormal/fantasy author, and her photo is certainly not lacking in excellent personality.....



No one's going to forget this headshot. I love her funky hair, her cool T-shirt, and the weird furry chair she's sitting on. There is a great juxtaposition of her serious expression and glasses, and the psychedelic hair and clothes.

Raymond Carver's photo is incredible....look at those eyes. Love how he is shielding his face with the hand holding a cigarette.



I also love this photo of poet and author Todd Moore...it is so dark and shadowy and gloomy. He is barely looking at the photographer, almost reluctantly. 




And now, for mine.....



Evidently, I'm breaking all the rules (I'm such a Rule Breaker! hee hee)....

1. Took it with my webcam (where I sit everyday and write my wacky stories).
2. Wearing a T-shirt.
3. No make-up and I had, honestly, just gotten out of bed. Which is why my hair is looking so big and excellent and Bon Jovi-ish.
4. Lighting is non-professional. Setting is non-professional. It's my messy office. Littered with art supplies, travel books...you can see my Kindle off to the right, and a photograph my son took.

This photo is totally me. It might not be polished and professional, but what you see is what you get. I love it.

Someday, when I make the big time, and Hugh Jackman says (in his excellent Australian accent), "Penny, you really must get yourself a professional headshot," then maybe I'll cave in and do the boring, expected, standard thing.

But my hair is still gonna be super big. Jumbo big. Just-rolled-out-of-bed big.

Waiting for that phone call from Hugh.......
Penelope

Friday, February 10, 2012

Beard of the Day


Today's Beard of the Day is none other than the King of Bad-assery himself, Clint Eastwood. Since he's been in the news a lot lately, I thought I would post this iconic shot of him....with his trademark squinty look, dangling smoke, western hat, and of course the rockin' manliest beard of all. Oh, Clint, how I love you!

And if this isn't enough, I found this adorable photo with TWO of my favorite things....Clint. And a weenie dog. Heaven!



Happy Friday!
Penelope

Thursday, February 9, 2012

It's The Asian Invasion, Baby!


Odd and ends....

1.) As many of you know, I have a Filipino-American hubby, and 2 great adopted Filipino kids. So, basically, I'm the odd (white) man out in our family. Needless to say, we cheer for Asian basketball players (my hubby is currently obsessed with Jeremy Lin), eat tons of Asian food (Thai and Vietnamese are our favorites), and also hope that the Asian contestants on Top Chef will win (we were totally stoked when Hung won Season 3). SPOILER AHEAD (if you haven't watched the latest episode of Top Chef, stop now!): We are pretty excited that not only Paul Qui (2nd from the left, above photo--he was born in Manila! yay!) made it to the finals (I'm rooting for him!), but also Beverly Kim, the slightly Asperger-ish girl who everyone loves to hate (I personally like her). Unfortunately, Edward Lee got booted last night....too bad, because that would have been a 75% Asian final! Sorry, Ed. Note to Ed: NEVER use the canned oysters. That's the kiss o' death.

Go Paul!!!!!!

2.) I finished Kill and Tell by Linda Howard, recommended to me by Julia Barrett. She told me it had the most incredible seduction scenes ever. And she was right. Romantic suspense is not my favorite sub-genre, but this book is sex-ay! Hot and sultry, like a summer's night in New Orleans. If you're looking for a book with intense chemistry between the hero and heroine, a complex suspense storyline, and one of the sexiest love scenes ever, check it out. Grade: A (still fanning myself....whew!)

3.) I just wanted to give a shout-out to Round Pond Estates, the charming small vineyard I toured in Napa Valley. Julia and I had a private olive oil tasting that was wonderful. I came home with four kinds of delicious olive oil (Italian Varietal, Spanish Varietal, Blood Orange and Meyer Lemon). I have been using them every day in my cooking and salad dressings. I also got their Blood Orange Citrus Syrup and Meyer Lemon Citrus Syrup.....I'm going to figure out some kick-ass cocktails to make with these. Stay tuned. If you are looking for a great gift for a foodie in your life, I can't recommend these products enough. Superb!

4.) And last but not least....Valentine's Day! Yep, it's coming up next week. On Feb. 14, I will be posting my review for Dana Stabenow's Restless in the Grave. I will also be giving away a copy of this incredible book to one lucky commenter. So be sure to stop by on Tuesday for the review and give-away. Now, murder might not seem like the most romantic theme for Valentine's Day, but I guarantee anyone reading these books will fall madly in love with Liam! A big, hunky Alaskan state trooper. Schwing!


That's it for now! Have a great day,
Penelope

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Review of Sweet Dreams by Kristen Ashley


OK. Let me tell you a story....

Once upon a time, I was flying across the country, from Boston to California. I had 10 hours to kill. I downloaded a sample of Sweet Dreams by Kristen Ashley on my Kindle because someone told me the hero has a beard. I started reading the sample.

It was bad.

There were typos, the writing was horrible. I was just about to DNF it and move on to the next book, but....

.....something stopped me. It had some itty bitty, teensy weensy, wee little, minuscule bit of something that made me say....

...one more chapter. Because there was some tiny spark in there....the premise made me want to go just a bit further.

Well, I kept reading. And reading. And pretty soon I realized that not only was the writing fine, but the typos were pretty much gone. And the storytelling in this book was like crack on fire. I was addicted.

And then....and then.....

My sample ran out.

Fudge-sicle! I forgot I was reading a sample. And then I tried to download the rest of the book, but I couldn't get Internet connection.

Whimper.

(Story is not over yet).

And then, when I got to Chicago, my Kindle connection worked and I was able to download the whole book. Eureka! So, for 5 hours I read that damned book and I was amazed.

(That when I got to California, I still wasn't finished! This book is like 10 million pages long.)

Anyway, here's the deal with this book. I loved it in spite of itself. It most definitely has a split personality. I think half of this book was actually written by a teenage girl.....piss-poor writing in the first chapter, pages and pages of descriptions of hair, make-up and jewelry details that made me laugh out loud with the absurdity of it (on the plane, no less), everyone is cussing like a sailor (by the end of the book the hero is saying stuff like "Well, shit, that is the shittiest shit I ever shittin' heard"), and the book is like the never-ending story. First part: Cinderella make-over. Second part: Becoming a mom/family girl. Third part: Dealing with weenie ex-hubby and deranged ex-wife. Forth part: Eluding sick bastard serial killer. I got the feeling that Kristen Ashley wanted to make sure she didn't miss any single theme that could possibly be included in this book. So, she included them all.

Also, one of my pet peeves is over-use of the term "baby" in romance novels. In this book, the hero calls the heroine "baby." The heroine calls the hero "baby." The heroine calls her step-son "baby." The brother-in-law calls the heroine "baby." There were more babies than at a neonatal ward.

But the other part of the personality is what interests me. Because, in spite of itself, this book is like crack. Ashley is a truly gifted story-teller. Her writing has that spark, that something special, that sucks you into the book and doesn't let you go. Her story takes you on a crazy, wacky journey, and I loved every second of it. I fell in love with her characters. Even the ones bordering on cliché. This author has a very unique voice. This book is one-of-a-kind. And in this world of formulaic romance, I found this a breath of fresh air (with a pink, ruffled collar and jade beaded necklace).

Also, the hero has a beard. A sexy beard. Which the heroine loves. And gets pissed off when he shaves it. At the end of the book, he is growing back his beard, just for her.

Now, that's true love, baby. Baby. Baby. Baby.

This is the weirdest, craziest, wackiest, beardiest, babiest book I have ever read. And for some damned reason, I loved it.

Go figure.

And that's the end of my story. And it's still not even close to as long as Sweet Dreams.

Grade: A

Penelope

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Walking, Talking and Gawking



I'm gawking......

.....at Carolyn Crane's new website design. Carolyn, who is hilarious, quirky and an incredibly talented writer, has been slaving away on her new website for weeks. And....it kicks big-time arse! I am totally inspired to work on my website now. I love her new font for the header, the lay-out, the super fun graphics, the whole enchilada (that's an inside joke since she loves Mexican food). Check out her website and gawk away.

I'm talking......

.....about Linda Howard's Kill and Tell with Julia Barrett. Julia loves Linda Howard, and I have only read one book by her--Open Season--which I absolutely loved. So next on the reading list is Kill and Tell, which I am assured has one of the sexiest scenes ever. Hubba hubba hubba....


I'm walking.......

.......which just may be the secret to living a long, healthy life. Big thanks to my friend Sandra who sent me this link. I might look like a big dork when I do my walks every day....picture Adrian from the first Rocky movie--BEFORE her make-over. Remember when she had on the knit cap, buttoned-up coat and glasses? That's me. (See photo below).



I might look like a dork, but those walks are the best thing going! Check out this cool vid.......



Walking to the Rocky soundtrack,
Penelope

Monday, February 6, 2012

Monday Morning Updates: Sweet and Sassy



Sassy Part:

Conversation with my daughter last night.....

Nat: Mom, what's "Hammertime"??

Me: Uh......

Nat: What's that mean?

Me: Here, let me show you. (Gets MC Hammer videos on Youtube) Watch this. Knock yourself out, kid.

A few minutes later.....

Nat: Mom, watch this new dance move!

Natty starts doing the Hammertime foot shuffle thingie on the hardwood kitchen floor. She's sliding along the kitchen floor, back and forth, back and forth. I am laughing my ass off. Lucy, the weenie dog, is wagging her tail and decides she does not want to be left out of this fun activity, so she latches onto Nat's leg and starts humping for all she's worth. (I know....it's weird that a female dog is humping, but evidently Lucy didn't get that memo). So, Nat is doing the Hammertime foot shuffle, Lucy is humping her leg as she glides across the floor, and I am laughing my ass off.

Who needs the freakin' superbowl?

Now, onto the sweet part....

Believe it or not, I read a Christan inspirational romance yesterday....and I loved it! The Unlikely Wife by Debra Ullrick is a very sweet and touching romance. Sure, it's a little bit heavy on the Christian stuff--there is a lot of praying and sermonizing--but the overall story, which pairs a poor tomboy mail-order bride and a well-to-do farmer out west, is adorable. This is a rated G story, but the sentiment is totally satisfying.

Grade: A

Weekend round-up.....Pats lost, Nat learned how to do the Hammertime Foot Shuffle with a humping weenie dog hanging on her leg, and I read a rated G inspirational romance and I liked it. Wacky!

Happy Monday,
Penelope

Sunday, February 5, 2012

I Give My Kidnappers Five Stars



Actual headline this morning.....

"Kidnapped Tourists Praise Their Captors"

According to this article, the Egyptian kidnappers gave their captors tea and dried fruit, had a nice little chat, and even extinguished their cigarettes upon request. The women called their abductors "kind, polite and hospitable."

All in all, a five star kidnapping.

I guess if you're going to get kidnapped, Egypt is the place to go.


Happy Sunday Morning!
Penelope

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Review of Mystic Ink by Casey Wyatt


Review of Mystic Ink by Casey Wyatt

I must admit that I was put off by the blurb for this book. For some reason I wasn't in the mood to read about gods, goddesses, sea nymphs and satyrs. This book takes mythological creatures and plops them into a contemporary setting--a tattoo parlor in Mystic, Connecticut. I've read various books with this paranormal premise, including Sherrilyn Kenyon's series, which I loved before it became repetitive.

But I must say, right from the start, Wyatt hooked me with her writing. I'm a sucker for good writing. And this book is extremely well written. It flows flawlessly, the pacing is perfect, the characters are full-bodied and interesting (sort of like a good Merlot...yeah, I still have wine on the brain). It has a lot packed in here....teetering on the edge of too much. Many characters, lots of twists and turns in the plot. But in spite of this, Mystic Ink works. I loved the main characters, especially the adorable hero who is sexy, protective, and fearless. The heroine is spunky without being irritating. The secondary characters are plentiful and colorful. But I think the most important thing here is the pacing. I was sucked into the story, I wanted to find out what was going to happen. It never gets bogged down with too much information (which can happen easily in a complex paranormal story like this). The sexual tension builds nicely, and the love scenes are toasty hot. Wyatt also does a great job setting up the next story. 

This is a great debut novel. I am most impressed with Wyatt's writing expertise and am wondering if she will branch out into other genres as well. I hope so. She's got a new fan.

Grade: A-

Penelope

Friday, February 3, 2012

I'm Back!


Natty made me a Welcome Home sign...hee hee! And got me a really cool terrarium, too.



Napa is so charming! Julia and I walked here on my last night, on our way to dinner at.....



.....Morimoto's Restaurant, where I had the best meal of my life. (And cocktail, made with vanilla vodka, lime juice and pomegranate juice). This dish is called bagna cauda. It had a hot olive oil dipping sauce made with anchovies, surrounded by beautiful vegetables. Heaven!


Super quickie reading update......

**Read Mystic Ink, the debut novel by Casey Wyatt, and I loved it! It's a mish-mash of mythology, romance and suspense. Extremely well-written, with a super-sexy and adorable hero. Can't wait to read the next one.

**Read Heart of Steel by Meljean Brook. This steampunk was okay. Not nearly as good as the first one in the series (The Iron Duke), but it kept me entertained on my airplane ride home.

**Started The Unlikely Wife by Debra Ulrick. I am loving this sweet, inspirational story.

**Did a quickie re-read of Christine Feehan's Predatory Game on the flight home. This is one of my favorite Ghostwalker books, with a handicapped hero in a wheelchair.

**Read Sweet Dreams by Kristen Ashley on the flight over to California. This book is crazy and all over the place. I couldn't decide if it was written by a teenage girl (pages of clothes and make-up descriptions, cussing out the wazoo, and poor writing, especially at the beginning), by a murderous biker dude (over the top serial killer storyline), or a romance-lover (exceptional hero....with an exceptional beard!). But after all was said and done, I freakin' loved it (coz I love wacky stuff, as you know).

Happy Friday! Huge thanks (again) to Julia Barrett for an amazing trip. Thanks, hon!

Penelope

ETA: Check out my interview at Curves Are Fabulous!