Friday, May 31, 2013

Appreciation for the Unexpected



 It's Friday!Yippppeeeeee



What's been happening this week?

1. I'm having a mid-life crisis, which I think can be fixed by the purchase of an icy-blue convertible mini Cooper. (see photo above) I'm picturing myself tooling around town in this car, with mirrored sunglasses and a weenie dog sitting next to me in the passenger seat. I WILL BE SO COOL!

2. Must figure out strategy to convince my husband to purchase me an icy-blue mini Cooper.

3. Must plan new wardrobe which will nicely complement my new icy-blue mini Cooper.

4. I gave a presentation to Natty's 4th grade class about LUCY THE WONDER WEENIE! It was so much fun. The kids were adorable, and their two favorite things were our discussion of the "puke it out" technique for writing first drafts, and the LICKING LUCY LEMON LIP BALM by Be Greatful! When I left the class, all 22 of them were madly applying the lip balm! Hee hee.

5. I must clean out the garage so I have a spot to park my new icy-blue mini Cooper (hoping that I am able to complete #2 successfully).

6. I read a ton of books. Here are some quickie reviews for the ones that were unexpected in some way. Which I always love and appreciate!





What I was expecting... a sweet love story set at a ranch. What I wasn't expecting...an intensely powerful portrayal of a mother's love and devotion for her daughter. Shelby's daughter is suffering from selective mutism, and the mom decides that a summer out west is just the thing to bring her daugher out of her silent shell. The scenes where Lizzie is interacting with the horses, and working up her courage to participate on the ranch, were so moving and emotional. I cried three times reading this...really cried. I also enjoyed the romance portion of the story, and the western setting is very authentic in Hayworth's talented hands. But the part of this book that packs an emotional wallop is the daughter's journey. I wasn't expecting that in a western romance, but I got it anyway. :^)

This has a superb HEA.

Grade: B+

Release date: June 4th, Signet




This was really unexpected! Why? Because the premise for the story (hero causes an accident that severely injures the heroine) is both the source of conflict and the source of healing. Excellent! Because the paranormal part I've never seen before...not really a ghost, but sort of a ghost? Because the hero and heroine pop off the page. They are fully formed with real emotional issues. I especially love how Gage made the hero a real, flawed, and yet likable character. He does a despicable act, but the reader still roots for him. That's a toughie for an author to accomplish. Slow beginning, but picks up the pace and has a storyline with a lot of suspense--you are dying to find out how this whole thing will resolve! Wonderful happy ending, too. Well done.

Grade: B

Release date: June 3rd, Lyrical Press






I have NEVER read a romance where an octopus attack is the source of conflict. That was unexpected! I saw this Harly recommended on an Amazon board about physically scarred heroines. This is definitely one of the better Harlies I've read. The heroine had a career as a successful super model until she was horribly scarred by an octopus attack, and then she chooses to devote her life to medical research (guess what about? hee hee). Anyhow, I really liked the relationship between the introverted heroine and the sexy Greek doctor. Fun read!

Grade: B




Finally, the book I got as a joke. A BBW (big beautiful woman, aka curvy girl book) with a troll as the heroine, and a centaur as the hero!

HAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!!!!

Well, guess what? This book was great! I'm not kidding. It was well-written, had very cool world-building details, and I loved the relationship between the alpha warrior centaur and the quirky troll. It even had some interesting commentary on ethnic discrimination. How about that? I'm looking forward to reading more books in this series. An unexpected winner!

Grade: B

(Bonus: the centaur has a goatee! Yipppeeeeee!!!!!!)



OK, everyone, that's it for now. I am off to purchase some bumper stickers for my mid-life crisis car. I'm optimistic about convincing hubby we BOTH need this car. *wink*

All my best,
Penelope

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

A Gentle Reminder: The Path To Success



Sometimes we forget.

Sometimes we forget that not everyone wants a McMansion on a hill, driveway packed with sports cars, elegant parties underway.

Some folks want a shack in the mountains, no electricity, no connection to the real world.

Everyone has different goals, different ideas of success, different forms of inspiration and motivation.

The same is true with writing.

For some, success is defined by a rank at Amazon. Best-seller lists. Awards. How much money earned per year, per book, per contract.

For some, it's a fan letter. Just one letter. Telling the author how her book made the reader laugh, cry, feel.

For some, it's finishing. Just finishing. Because that is a huge accomplishment for many people, and something to be proud of.

For some, it's trying a new genre, a new voice, a new structure. Reinvention. Experimentation. Breaking the rules. Breaking your own rules. Feeling free.

For some, it's simply putting words on paper. Watching a story unfold. It's not about publishing, or money, or the industry. It's about the writing.

For some, that is victory.

I think there is room for everyone's path in this writing universe. We all have our own personal route to success. We do not need to be judged by the same parameters.

It's difficult not to compare yourself with others. My tip today to all writers: embrace your own personal goals, feel pride in your accomplishments, your path is the right one for you.

And that's the way it should be.


Happy Storytelling To All,
Penelope



Monday, May 27, 2013

Friday, May 24, 2013

Beard of the Day



Fun facts about Paul Walker....

1. He majored in marine biology.

2. He started his show biz career in a Pampers commercial.

3. He loves surfing.


He does the scruff proud.


Happy Beardy Friday,
Penelope


Thursday, May 23, 2013

Missing The Boat (Or Spaceship, As The Case May Be)



What makes a great science fiction story? 

Creativity of world-building details.

The underlying story should have memorable characters and timeless themes, but it's the world-building that scifi fans are looking for. We want fantastical new planets to explore, with shocking cultures and inhabitants. We want unique alien creatures. We want fabulous new technology: weapons, spaceships, and more.

If you're going to make a film using one of the most iconic scifi spaceships of all time...The Enterprise, then by God, you better deliver on the scifi portion of the movie.

Perhaps my expectations were too high. After falling in love with the 2009 Star Trek movie, I had very high hopes for Star Trek Into The Darkness. Same amazing cast of characters. And I love the whole concept of going back to the very beginning of space exploration. It is a superb premise for a fresh new twist on the Star Trek series.

Nevertheless, Star Trek Into The Darkness was, in my humble opinion, a big boring, predictable snooze-fest. And worst of all, the "scifi" portion in Star Trek was sorely missing. If you're going to make a movie about a spaceship which explores new frontiers, then for Christ's sake, let it do some god-damned exploring. What made Star Trek scifi? Alien lifeforms, strange new planets and cultures, new and exciting technology. This Star Trek movie had about 50% of the scenes...on EARTH!

The opening sequence was by far the best part of the film. Why? Because we are on an alien planet...gorgeous cinematography, fascinating alien culture, some typical Captain Kirk/Spock interactions. After that, too many of the scenes took place in the boardroom, on Earth, and on the Enterprise itself. The zip and pop and excitement of the first film were missing.

There was one big tease: a discussion of the Klingons. Finally! We're finally gonna get some cool, bad-ass aliens!

And they were FANTASTIC! For all of 60 seconds. And then it was over. The alien planet looked like an outdoor industrial plant. Not too impressive. And then we're back on the Enterprise.


Come back, Klingons! COME BACK!


This turned into a regular old action film, with a lot of guys running around hallways with guns. But every scene was predictable. There was no tension at all in the film.

At the end of the movie when Kirk and Spock have their super emo scene, touching hands through the glass barrier...

I laughed.

Out loud.

In the theater.

(For the record, I went to a 10:20 AM matinee, so it was just me and two other dudes).

Ugh.

I'm not even going to get into the fact that the initial "conflict" made no sense...Kirk getting in trouble for failing to follow the "prime directive" while Spock did the exact same thing...because it's not worth it.

I watched Galaxy Quest recently, the hilarious parody of Star Trek starring Tim Allen, and I found that film more entertaining than this.

Ugh.

I'm hoping Star Trek 3 will be an improvement.

Hopefully they will finally get off the DAMNED EARTH AND DO SOME SPACE EXPLORATION.

Peeved and Pissy,
Penelope

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Penny Seeks Something Special, And A Gift From Heaven Falls Right Out Of The Sky




Review for Neanderthal Seeks Human by Penny Reid

I did something with this book that is always a good thing. I read it without reading the blurb first. I'd heard it was quirky, funny, and had a character named "Sir McHotpants." That was good enough for me.

I start reading. It's first person POV, not my favorite. The heroine is clueless. As in, extremely clueless. It also appears that she has Asperger syndrome, since she babbles incoherently about minutia, and has no idea about other people's perceptions of her. This could be bad.

But it wasn't.

It was very, very good.

Here are some reasons it was good...

1. The heroine says "By the mighty power of Thor!" More than once.

2. This sentence: "She had hot monkey sex with McHotpants!"

3. This sentence: "If you didn't climb that man like a tree I was going to have to get all lumberjack on his ass."

4. Janie is in a knitting group. And she doesn't knit.

5. Quinn is insanely sexy, adorable, protective. Schwing!

6. Janie is super smart, quirky, insecure, and a wonderfully unique heroine. LOVE HER!

7. The humor is fab.

8. I LOVE LOVE LOVE that the entire story is told from Janie's POV, and then for the epilogue, we get Hottie McHotpant's POV. That is just too cool. Brilliant!

9. This is Reid's debut novel. Is it perfect? No. But her voice is so big and funny and quirky and awesome, I didn't care that there were a couple of typos in here. (Which I think have been rectified). Reid's voice is a big huge honkin' breath-of-fresh-air, and this book is one-of-a-kind. LOVE!

10. The sub-title is spot-on: This is a "smart romance." Bring it!

So, my overall assessment of this book: It's not perfect. The beginning is slow, it takes a while to warm up to the quirky heroine, some of the pacing is a little bit draggy. And I'm not sure how I feel about the fact that Reid does an extraordinary job building up the sexual tension, and then gives us a "closed door" sex scene. After building up the lusciousness that is Quinn, I wanted a little more action.

Nevertheless, this book is by far one of the most impressive debut novels I have ever read. Reid has a gift for story-telling and creating characters. And her sense of humor is simply divine. I cannot wait for her to write the next installment of this series.

Also, her name is Penny.

Also, she is actually really funny IRL (in real life).

I would recommend stalking her following her on Twitter and Facebook. She is hilarious.

If you are looking for something unique, outside-of-the-romance-box, funny as hell, with a quirky heroine, adorable hero, and super satisfying HEA, then Neanderthal Seeks Human is a big, fat winner!

Grade: A+


I also happen to be a knitter. But in a very mindless sort of way. What this means is that I only knit scarves. I don't follow patterns, and I don't count stitches. I like to knit with as minimal brain capacity working as possible. Since you all know I love sequins and sparkle, I couldn't resist this yarn. It has multi-colored rainbow sequins! Here is my latest project...



Hope all of you are having a good week!
Penny

Friday, May 17, 2013

Happy Weekend!


Happy Weekend!

I am feeling slightly better and hoping this weekend will not be a complete wash. We have soccer clinic, soccer game, and the big Spring Fling at Natty's school on Sunday. 

Hope all of you have a wonderful weekend.

All my best,
Penelope

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Sick As A Dog


Please stand by! Penelope will not be doing anymore posts until she gets better. 



I feel like I've been run over by a truck, flung off a bridge, my head smacked with a hammer, and tossed around by a couple of dinosaurs playing catch.

But other than that, I'm OK.

GROAN!

Hopefully I will be better and back soon. I have some reviews to write for a couple of great books!

Take care,
Penelope

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Voice: Can You Hear Me?



About five years ago, I attended a workshop about "voice." It was maybe 3 or 4 hours long. We did a whole bunch of exercises. What was our favorite color? Music? Setting? Ice-cream? Movie? At the end of the workshop, I realized the author was trying to get us to figure out our own personalities. Her point was that our personality is our voice.

I asked a question. I've read authors who wrote romantic comedy, which was light-hearted and funny, and romantic suspense, which was dark. Same voice? She said yes, no matter what an author writes her voice is always the same.

I totally disagree.

I think an author can "adopt" a voice for a book. A funny, light voice for comedy is perfect. And something denser, darker for suspense makes sense.

I think that we have many voices. Because we have lightness inside of us, as well as darkness. And a truly talented writer can tap into many different things to create a novel.

Can you teach a writer to have a "voice"? That is a very good question. You can teach someone the craft of writing, but voice is more difficult to navigate. I think that a lot of newbie writers are concerned with craft, and don't think about voice. Which is fine. Hopefully, your voice shines through your writing. Hopefully, it's instinctive. But over time, I think it can develop and become more distinct.

The books with the most "pop" are ones where the author's voice really sings. The same exact story, written by two different authors, will be totally different because of voice.

This past week I've read a bunch of books, manuscripts, and even a Facebook post that was so exploding with voice it inspired a new book. Bobbi Ruggiero has a phenomenal WIP she is working on, with a tried and true storyline. Why does it work? Because her voice is fresh, new, charming and filled with energy. Her voice is quite literally, her own voice. I can hear her saying the lines. Her humor shines through, her passion shines through. This is what every writer aspires to with her own "voice."

I read Penny Reid's quirky debut novel NEANDERTHAL SEEKS HUMAN and adored it. Voice is a mix of humor, stylistic components, character, pacing. Everything together. Reid has a unique voice, quirky, fun, and funky. It works like a charm for this lovely story. I'll be writing a full review soon.

Finally, the Facebook post. My friend Stephanie Estes Saccoccio wrote a Facebook status that was 87 words long. It was exploding with voice. In eighty seven words, she wrote a story, with perfect pacing, comedic timing, and the promise for more. I bugged her about using those 87 words as the opening paragraph for a contemporary romance, and finally she said...Um, I think I might try that! She has a natural modern, funny voice that is perfect for con rom. And her storytelling ability is off the charts. I think she could take any story idea and make it sing, because of her strong, comedic voice.

Do any of you have a favorite author with a distinctive voice? Have you read any books recently that fell flat because of a lack of voice? What do you think?

Penny


Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Critiquing For Dummies



I just spent the last 48+ hours beta-reading and editing WIPs for two different critique partners. My critiques are not for the faint-of-heart. I am brutal. Luckily, my friends are used to my comments and suggestions...

* Your heroine sure does a lot of deep breathing. I think maybe she has asthma.
* The word "anus" isn't sexy. Just sayin.
* This makes no sense. At all. What the hell are you talking about?
* Who gives a rat's ass what color the pilot's eyes are?
* Did they just boink? I can't tell.
* Why are they fishing? Who cares about fishing. I don't care about fishing.
* How long is this frickin' sex scene anyway?
* I don't think any human being can eat that much food. They would be vomiting by now.
* Omit this whole paragraph. Redundant.
* Omit this whole page. Redundant.
* Omit this whole chapter. Redundant.
* Um, you need to rewrite the whole book.

The amazing part is....we're still friends! Haaaaaaaa!!!!! I also say nice things, too.

* OMG! I am swooning! SWOONING!
* I'm crying. OMG!
* That scene is PURE F*CKIN' GOLD, BABY!
* Your agent is going to poop her pants when she reads that. POOP!
* BEST KISS EVER! *Penny faints*
* Smooth like buttah.
* Haaaaaaa! That is freaking hilarious!
* Now I'm starved. I NEED GELATO!
* Does he have a beard?
* Sex-ay.
* That is soooooooo romantic. OMG. OMG. OMG.

What's the secret to finding a good critique partner? She needs to let you know A) what you're doing well, and  B) what you need to work on. That's it. Everyone has strong points and weak points. Some folks are too sensitive to take criticism, and some folks have hides like a rhinoceros. Luckily, my critique partners are used to me, and they trust my judgment. They also ignore me whenever they want to.

The hummingbird is for Bobbi Baby who was an extremely good sport following her first major critique. She's a champ! With a super adorable book.

My goal for today is writing my own book, Sweet Adventure (aka Yeti Will Make You Deady).
Ciao!
Penny

Friday, May 3, 2013

Penny Discovers An Unexpected Gem: AIRE by Lena Goldfinch



Sometimes I think when I tell folks "I love romance" they don't really understand what I'm talking about. Romance is not sex. Romance is not marriage. For me, romance is love. True, everlasting, heroic love. It's also a moment in time, the touch of a hand, the scent of lilacs, a tiny bouquet of violets fit for a fairy queen...




Romance is about hope and courage and strength and loyalty. It's about simple acts of friendship. It's about forgiveness. It's about sacrifice. 

Can a book have a heart and soul? Not just the characters, but a story? Yes, of course it can. Anyone who has clutched Harry Potter to her chest knows that truth. There are not many storytellers who can truly tap into that gift. You have to have the soul of a poet. You have to believe in the power of love.

And if you're a romance author, you need to believe in the HEA. Happy Ever After. It's not just a trite abbreviation. It's huge. It's the difference bewteen being cynical and bitter and hopeless and believing in happiness.

Let me just start this review by saying I don't read YA. In fact, I like much more mature characters, 40s and even 50s and beyond. But there are some things that defy age. Like friendship and courage and love. Goldfinch's story AIRE weaves fantasy and characters and setting and suspense into an extraordinary tale. Her writing is beautiful, the story is engaging, the suspense builds perfectly. But it's the romance woven into the story that brings it to sparkling life. And I realized, as I read this, that sometimes the most satisfying love stories don't need graphic sex. They just need longing and trust...and finally happy endings. 

There is one thing I remember about The Language Of Souls --Goldfinch's first book that I read a long time ago. It's the kiss. The whole story leads up to one, perfect kiss. And it was filled with so much romance and love I was just amazed. This book has that same quality. I have never seen an author make a kiss so touching, and tender, and lovely, and perfectly satisfying. Like that little bouquet of violets. Sometimes our romantic moments don't need to be big or over-the-top or graphic. Small and simple and perfect are better.

After I finished this book I cried. For a long time. Goldfinch treats us to many happy endings in this story...for primary and secondary characters. I was charmed. I've never read a book that ensured ALL the characters were so well taken care of. It's my dream-come-true! Charming and adorable.

I am always on the look-out for something different and unique and special. This book surpassed all of my expectations. It is a gem that is so far my favorite read for 2013. 

Grade: A+

Blissfully, blissfully happy,
Penelope