Monday, February 28, 2011

Special Edition of Beard of the Day!

I know. I usually post my Beard of the Day on Fridays, but this is a special occasion. Christian Bale has been awarded Beard of the Day in the past, but this winner deserves its own award! Oh boy! Lumberjacks world-wide are rejoicing. CB showed up at the Oscars with a swanky black outfit and a scraggly beard ensemble. What a combination!

This barely groomed facial hair is the ultimate, "Wild Man", thick and rugged beard. I love how it's slightly reddish colored as opposed to the dark brown hair on his head. And the stache is great, too.

I'm gonna go out on a limb and say that beard pretty much ensured his win for Best Supporting Actor. Beard Power!

I didn't watch last night, but I heard he gave a very sweet thank-you to his wife. Good man.

Happy Monday to Everyone!

Review of Taken To The Limit by Nico Rosso

Taken To The Limit by Nico Rosso

Thanks to everyone's favorite pimpin' romance blogger, Mandi at Smexybooks, I was introduced to both Zoë Archer and Nico Rosso recently. I inhaled the first book of Archer's series, Warrior, with the utmost joy, and am looking forward to reading more of her work. I was also intrigued about her husband's sci fi romance, Taken To The Limit. Since I have recently discovered this new-to-me subgenre of romance, I am eagerly exploring these books.

Before I read Taken To The Limit, I began to read Rosso's tumblr series called Dead Drop. It's a dark and gritty first person narrative with a real "hardboiled" or "noir" vibe to it. It's superb. The daily entries are short and powerful. Rosso has mastered first person POV....the reader is instantly immersed into Trey's troubled world, filled with crime, double crosses, and paranoia. Rosso's writing here is effortless. I love how quickly we get sucked into Trey's dilemma, and how real his character seems. He is at once filled with bravado, quick wit, and vulnerability. I am super impressed with this short series. Creating such a compelling character and storyline in this type of format is quite a challenge, and Rosso has done a stellar job.

So, my expectations for Taken To The Limit were pretty damned high. I was expecting tight, effortless writing, fascinating characters, and the extra bonus of sci fi world-building detail.

To be honest, I found it hard to believe that the same person wrote both of these works. While the sci fi portion of this book is excellent, the romance part is not.

Let's start with the good stuff. The sci fi part of this book is wonderful. Rosso's futuristic/alien world-building details are way cool....the body armor, alien races, battle on the moon. My favorite was the morphing gun with a woman's voice, transforming from one weapon into another. The action sequences were great. Rosso's strong points in this book are without a doubt the world-building detail and the action.

His two main characters, Korina and Morrow, have a lot of potential. He is a strong warrior of a hero, and she is an equally strong and determined partner. However, we never get the depth of character here that we get in Dead Drop. Which is crazy, since Dead Drop is so much shorter. But for some reason, Rosso is able to capture Trey's personality to a "T" in that short series, whereas the characters in Taken To The Limit often times have a "cartoony" quality.

The weakest part of this book is the romance. Sentences like "Their bond deepened, as if doorways in their deepest selves were thrown open" and "Without words, they told each other what was in their hearts" totally threw me for a loop. Now, if I were reading a Harlequin, I would expect stuff like this. Maybe. But this is the same guy who is writing sharp, clever material in Dead Drop.

The thing about romance is that the sex needs to reflect the type of story you're writing. If you're writing a sweet story, the sex is sweet. If you're writing a dark and disturbing romantic suspense, the sex is darker, edgier. If you're writing sci fi, with lots of intense action, the sex needs to be right on board with that. Intense, powerful stuff. The love scenes in this book don't mesh with the rest of the story. They were full of clichés and to be honest, distracting. This is not the first time I have read a sci fi/erotica where the science fiction and the romance are dueling with each other instead of complementing each other. I can see that blending these two things together seamlessly is definitely a challenge.

So, here's my take on this. The word that popped into my head when reading Dead Drop was "authentic"....there is a real authenticity to this reveals the author's true voice, feels totally genuine and not forced. The same cannot be said for Taken To The Limit. The author's strengths are apparent (sci fi detail, action/adventure), but so are his weaknesses (lovey-dovey romance stuff). I think Nico Rosso needs to stick with gritty, and he'll be all set.

Grade: C+

Here is a link to Dead Drop. This series is wonderful and addictive. I highly recommend it.


Saturday, February 26, 2011

Romance Shizzle

Yesterday, I realized that my sister (let's call her "Margeaux" shall we??? heh heh) had rejected my friend request at facebook. The one sent from my author page. I thought it was most likely a grievous oversight on her part. But when I discreetly asked her what was up (I called her a "beeyotch" on facebook), she informed me that she didn't want to be inundated with romance shizzle.


I was speechless. It's true that my Penny Watson facebook page is dedicated to the wonderful world of romantic fiction, but I wouldn't call it romance shizzle.

And then it occurred to me that yes, perhaps, my life had become somewhat over-run by romance shizzle. Let's look at the facts....

1.) I only read romance novels. (And the comics in the morning paper).

2.) I read romance novels daily. (I do not, however, cook dinner daily nor do I wash the laundry daily).

3.) I have 2 blogs, which take up an enormous amount of time, both dedicated to...well...romance shizzle.

4.) I write romance novels.

5.) I like to talk about romance novels.

6.) I am chairperson of the promotions committee for the New England Chapter of the Romance Writers of America. Where I help writers to promote....their romance shizzle.

7.) I attend conferences about romance shizzle.

8.) Many of my friends are also on the romance shizzle bandwagon (fellow writers, bloggers, reviewers, etc).

9.) My only source of income is the result of romance shizzle (which isn't a hell of a lot, unfortunately).

10.) My favorite songs are romance shizzly. My favorite movies are romance shizzly. I love gardening, which scores high on the romance index (think roses and butterflies). I also love wiener dogs. I'm not sure how weenie dogs tie into the whole romance shizzle thing, but there must be a connection. Somehow. Since I am clearly obsessed with romance shizzle.

After pondering this dilemma for a bit, I came to the conclusion that...
A) Maybe I should expand my interests, or...
B) I should accept the fact that I am full of romance shizzle.

I considered these alternate options....

--start attending church
--get a job not related to romance shizzle
--try reading Shakespeare

After seriously considering these options for at least 35 seconds, I rejected them. (Sort of the way my sister rejected my friend request. But I'm not bitter. Really).

I have decided to embrace my inner romance shizzle in all its lovely glory. Yes, perhaps I missing out on other forms of reading materials. And yes, perhaps I could accomplish many things in my life that would benefit mankind if I stopped reading romance novels. Save the earth. Recycle more. That sort of thing. But the truth is, I like my romance shizzle. It's fun, it's happy, it's inspiring.

So, I am accepting the fact that romance shizzle more or less rules my life, even if certain individuals (sister whose name begins with the letter "M") clearly think my romance shizzle obsession may be problematic.

I have decided to start a new expression. Ro shizzle, instead of fo shizzle.

All my ro shizzly best,

Friday, February 25, 2011

Review of When Beauty Tamed The Beast by Eloisa James

When Beauty Tamed The Beast by Eloisa James


I am sitting in a stupor, staring into space.

There are not many romance novels that fit into the "Lord of Scoundrels"-category of absolute perfection. Honor's Splendour by Julie Garwood. Several Amanda Quick books. It is almost impossible to get everything right. The characters. The setting. The story. The humor. The pacing. The sex. Every scene perfect.

And then to push it one step further. Not only flawless in these ways, but to include a "voice" that is unique and humbling. Good Christ Almighty, this book is like one, single, perfect French truffle, sitting on a lace doily. The perfect, delicious package. And when you bite into it, you get a's even better than you think, because there is a drop of liqueur inside you weren't expecting.

I thought I knew Eloisa James. Had her pegged. She wrote traditional historical romance. Some were okay, some were good, some were superb (A Duke Of Her Own). This book is whole new kettle of fish. The voice is different....the pacing is faster, tighter, the dialogue snaps, the characters are so rich and wonderful and lovely with their flaws, they are exquisite. The chemistry between the hero and the heroine is romance gold. I always think it's easier to make a good hero than heroine, but James does both. Piers is one of the greatest heroes I've seen in romance....on par with Dain from Lord of Scoundrels, no doubt. Foul, brilliant, blunt....absolutely freakin' wonderful. But Linnet is also a and beautiful and kind-hearted and thoughtful, and vain and vulnerable. The pairing of Linnet and Piers is right up there with Jessica and Dain, and Sara Fielding and Derek Craven.

The dialogue is so crazy good I don't know what to say. Bloody brilliant.

The storyline was great....even though I knew what would happen, I drank up every single word like a woman parched with thirst.

The twist on the Beauty and The Beast theme (which is one of my favorites anyhow) was truly inspired. The Beast becomes the savior, the Beauty becomes the beast. The love between Linnet and Piers is exposed just as the strawberry-fresh skin on the heroine's body is revealed beneath the peeling scabs. Hot damn, that's good. That's beyond good. An amazing, symbolic twist on the fairytale.

The only thing that was unneccessary, in my opinion, was the epilogue. I am usually a huge fan of epilogues, but in this case, it wasn't neccessary. The final sentence of the regular text was truly the perfect ending....

"Because the joy on her face and in her eyes was dazzling."

I cannot recommend this book highly enough. For true fans of historical romance, this is a flawless example of storytelling. You will fall in love with this book.

Grade: A+

Unicorns, Orca shapeshifters, and pissy werewolves are all a distant memory. Eloisa James has a crafted a story that will rival anything in the romance genre. I can't wait to read it again.

Bursting with happiness,

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Does Your Website Suck? Fix It!

I spend a lot of time looking at author websites. I must say, I am constantly amazed by how many are lacking even the basic necessities--can you say BOOK heading? So, here without further ado, are Penelope's suggestions for putting together a rockin' website. And what to do if your site sucks. Fix it, baby!

1.) If you are an author, there is really only ONE heading that matters. That would be BOOKS. If you don't have the heading BOOKS on your website, for the love of God, put one up. I don't care if you write paranormal, historical and contemporary series and have sub-headings for all of your different lines. You still need ONE HEADING THAT SAYS BOOKS! A master bibliography with all your titles, all LINKED to other pages on your site.

2.) If you write sweet, rated-G Amish romances, don't put pictures of naked guys on your homepage. If you write dark romantic suspense, don't put unicorns and sparkly rainbows on your homepage. And, no matter what you write, please don't put naked pictures of yourself on your homepage. Please. I'm begging you.

3.) Take it easy with the bells and whistles. No music. No hearts floating down the screen. No pop-ups. Keep it clean, simple and easy to navigate. All that fancy stuff takes too long to load and most people get impatient.

4.) If your website looks amateurish and tacky and unprofessional, YOU look amateurish and tacky and unprofessional. Your website IS YOU ONLINE. Make it count. If it looks polished and professional, so do you. Word.

5.) Too much text is bad. People get turned off when they see 10,000 words of text on your homepage. Too many graphics are bad. It's over-stimulating and too crowded and messy. Have a nice balance of text and visuals. Keep it simple. Draw people in with cool graphics.

6.) Next to BOOKS, most important heading is BIO. Tell us something cool about you. Were you an opera singer? A penguin trainer? Do you like knitting, gardening, traveling to Costa Rica? Be sure to include hobbies that establish commonality with your readers (Hey, Nora likes knitting! So do I!), as well as quirky or eccentric tidbits that make you pop (Hey, JR Ward was a contortionist at the circus!). Stuff like that. There is nothing wrong with branding yourself as the "Opera Singer/Romance Writer"--that would be Mia Marlowe, by the way. Makes you unforgettable, and totally cool in my opinion.

7.) Think about the language you use to describe yourself and your work. "Filth" and "smut" sound like  pornography. "Sexy," "edgy," "erotic" sound better. Be thoughtful of your word choice. You want to be respectful of your genre and your readers.

8.) Here's what you need to include about your books. Book Cover--need to establish cover recognition. Book Blurb--so we can decide if this book is our cup of tea. An Excerpt--this is super important if you are a debut author. I won't even consider buying a book from a new writer unless I can see a sample of her writing. Reviews--snippets and links. Did someone I respect read your book and like it? Purchase Link--everywhere it's available for purchase.

9.) Go ahead and include other stuff...just don't overdo it. If you write historicals, include facts about Regency England. If you write steampunk, include fun photos of make-believe steampunk inventions. There's nothing wrong with making your website entertaining, just don't forget that the main focus needs to be on BOOKS.

10.) A website is basically a static on-line reference (as opposed to a blog, which is a high maintenance interactive, dynamic site)...but you still need to keep it updated. Make sure your website has the most up-to-date info about your book releases, purchase links, appearances, etc. A website that has cobwebs growing on it looks neglected, and reflects poorly on you. Don't do it.

Some bitchin' author websites and some less than stellar sites....

Mia Marlowe-- It's gorgeous! Beautiful lay-out, color and design. Easy to navigate. First heading is BOOKS--Yay! Cool extra: Mia's opera singer photo. Just doesn't get any better than this.

Julie Garwood-- Weird gimmicky thing with the office--gives me motion sickness. And I hate the creepy noises, too.  But I love the master list of books.

Kresley Cole -- Nice clean design, easy to navigate.

Christine Feehan-- Way too busy. Totally overwhelming design. No single book heading. Gives me a migraine just looking at it.

Amanda Quick-- A little too busy, but she does have a master bibliography, which is critical for this prolific writer.

Gail Carriger-- Does not have a "book"'s on the side bar, but still! Should be first thing on the top of the homepage. Bonus: the steampunk page kicks ass.

Cara McKenna-- I love the graphics, I love the tagline (Red-Hot Romance, Smart Erotica), it's simple and clean, and very modern and fresh-looking.

Book bloggers...other suggestions? Things that drive you nuts? That you love? Any author websites you think are spot-on or totally missing the mark? Let me know!


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Book Giveaway and Interview at The Quirky Ladies

Please stop by The Quirky Ladies today and visit with NECRWA author Ella Drake. We are discussing kick-ass sci fi heroines (go, Ripley!), magical beanstalks, and sci/fi romance. We are also giving away a free copy of Jaq's Harp to one lucky commenter. (See my review here).

Hope everyone is surviving school vacation week. My daughter is painting watercolor butterflies (I guess she is jonesing for spring just like her mama), my son is logging in many, many hours of Call Of Duty (or "COD" as it is affectionately known at our house), and I am trying to sneak in some reading.


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Review of Pushing Her Boundaries by Julia Rachel Barrett

One of my favorite blog posts last year was Julia Barrett's harrowing account of her Canoe Trip From Hell. Although the trip was at times frightening and frustrating beyond belief, Julia's fabulous sense of humor kept rearing its head and made me laugh out loud while reading this bizarre tale.

When I heard Julia had penned an erotic story using this experience as inspiration, I couldn't wait to read it. I thoroughly enjoyed this story, but it surprised me. It was only loosely based on her experience, and the conflict and resolution between the hero and heroine were quite different from the experience she had with her husband. The truth is, I suspect, Julia realized the severity of this situation would be a perfect back-drop for two people just getting to know each other...just beginning to fall in love. Nothing will reveal your true nature quite like a near-death experience. The harsh and unforgiving circumstances of this canoe trip show what Mace and Maggie are made of.

The heroine is much like, resourceful, determined. In spite of her anger at the horribly incompetent guides, she pulls herself together to survive. And she learns to depend on Mace, who is a fabulous hero. Even though he isn't as aware of his surroundings as Maggie, his protective streak is huge. Mace earns Maggie's trust, and eventually her love. It's very romantic! (Even with the cougar and beavers and moose and ice storms and choppy waves threatening to capsize their canoe, etc etc--You get the idea! It's a wilderness adventure!).

Pushing Her Boundaries has likable, complex characters, sexy chemistry, and fascinating details about wildlife and camping. I'm a luxury hotel-gal myself, so I found the whole thing incredible....especially the fact that people actually choose to go on a trip like this when there are perfectly good cabins available in the woods, with running water, electricity, and take-out pizza joints nearby.

My only disappointment with the book was the ending. It needed more. The emotional resolution was too fast, and the wrap-up of the storyline was not as satisfying as the true-life story. In real life, Julia and her husband survived their ordeal, and in their own way, let Mr. and Mrs. Bob know how awful and incompetent they were. In the fictional account, we only hear about Mr. and Mrs. Bob from a third party...not nearly as satisfying. I really wanted Mace and Maggie to get a chance to let them have it! (I'm a blood-thirsty gal, evidently).

Overall, I thought this was a great read. Maggie and Mace's love developed very believably and was sexy and romantic. My two conclusions after reading this book....

1) Will be reading more stories by Julia Barrett....she's a great writer. And.....
2) Never, ever go camping. Ever. Never.

(Unfortunately, I also watched the movie Anaconda this weekend on the SyFy Channel. My interest in spending any overnight time in the woods/jungle/natural habitats has pretty much fallen to zero.)

Grade: A-/B+

So happy my husband doesn't like camping either,

Monday, February 21, 2011

Monday Morning Update: Promo Fun, Wildernessy Reading, and Winter Vacation

It's winter vacation! (Hack, hack, cough, sneeze...oh joyful days stuck in the house while it's snowing outside and my kids are both sick as dogs).

Plan for the week: consume lots of OJ, log in many hours of Call of Duty, and schedule ear-piercing at the mall for my 8 year old daughter. (This is attempt #2 since she lost her nerve the first time).

Yesterday's talk at the NEC meeting was a blast. I had a great time chatting with all the wonderful members of the New England chapter about self-promotion. Unfortunately, I only got through half my material...whoops! I probably could have gone on and on for hours until everyone shrivelled up from dehydration and begged me to stop. Hee hee!

On the reading front: I am in the midst of a wildnerness reading frenzy. Not on purpose, it was just a coincidence. I finished Julia Rachel Barrett's newest book, Pushing Her Boundaries, and I loved it! (A- read). Review coming soon. It was inspired by Julia's camping trip from hell, and it has a very suspenseful storyline involving storms, and canoes, and cougars....wildernessy!

Also on the wildernessy front (do you like how I just made up a new word? heh heh).....I got an ARC at the meeting yesterday and decided to dive right into Meg Maguire's Caught on Camera. It's about a wilderness survival television star and his trusty PA. First of all, the cover is so hilarious, I can't believe it! "This show is getting x-rated" on the front cover. The camera strategically placed over the dude's crotch. And best of all, the male model's impish and naughty facial expression. In addition to all of this deliciousness, the book is excellent. My first read by this author, and I am loving it. Review to follow when I finish!

Hope everyone has a great week!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Penny's Plethora Of Promotional Proverbs

I'm giving a talk today at Brandeis University, for the New England Chapter of the RWA.  It has two titles (because 2 are better than 1)....

1.) Self-Promotion is Not A Dirty Word, and....
2.) Penny's Plethora of Promotional Proverbs (because I really, really like alliteration).

Anyhoo, if you are interested in chatting about websites, ads, virtual tours, social media, bearded men, book-signings, and how to win an Olympic gold medal in self-promotion (I have one...I'll be telling the story of how I earned this prestigious award at the meeting), then please stop by.

It's at 1:00 at the Olin-Sang Auditorium. Here's the link for meeting info and directions.

Hope to see some of you there!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Just Say No To Unicorns

I swear I wasn't trying to find another kooky book.

I was just minding my own business, perusing the Ellora's Cave site, when I saw a nice-looking book (well, okay, the cover has a woman with a black thong and a cat tattoo) that I thought looked appealing. Pussyfooting Around by Ashley Ladd. The blurb looked good....a cat is transformed into a human and has six months to earn her master's love. Cute idea, right?

Well, the story started out well enough. I liked it. It was heading for a good, solid 4-star review. And then...and then....

And then, at the critical climax of the story, when the cat/woman is hauled away by the evil INS agents, the hero decides to....

....visit a wack-o doctor who induces a past-life regression, where he talks to a unicorn.


I didn't see that one coming. At all. And the book pretty much took a nose-dive from there. Too bad.

Note to all romance/erotica writers: When in doubt, don't add a unicorn into your book to tie up the storyline. Just say no to unicorns. Seriously.

Making a pledge to only read books that do not have fantastical horned creatures for the rest of vacation week,

Friday, February 18, 2011

Beard of the Day


Look who I found in the massive Barbie room at Toys R Us in New York City! Shaving Fun Ken!

Yep, it's Barbie's ex-boyfriend, Ken. Plastic, anatomically (sort of) correct, dirty blond, and now sporting a nice scruffy beard. This lovely kit comes with a razor, assorted shaving accessories, and a towel. You rub Ken's stylin' stache and beard with warm water and the facial hair disappears. Bummer. Keep that water away, Ken! You're looking fine.

Here's a commercial for the hunky dude.

Hope everyone has a Barbie-licious weekend,

P.S. By the way, I'm speaking at Sunday's NECRWA meeting, about self-promotion and social networking for romance writers. It's at 1:00 at Brandeis University...hope to see some of you there!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Context Is Everything

I have been thinking about grading scales lately.

About how some folks consider a 3-star rating "good" (which, technically, it is on Goodreads) and some folks (authors) who receive a 3 star rating want to fling their bodies off a bridge.

I tend to be an easy grader. If I like a book, I give it 4 or 5 stars. No fudging around. It's good, and I'm recommending it. According to my scale....

A= 5 stars
B= 4 stars
C= 3 stars
D= 2 stars
F= 1 star

3 stars is mediocre, not a great book. That's a C rating for me.

This is NOT the scale used at Goodreads, where....

1 star= didn't like it
2 stars= it was OK
3 stars= liked it
4 stars= really like it
5 stars= it was amazing

How the hell did Goodreads come up with this scale? I have no idea. No where else is an average rating considered "good"...which is the equivalent of "liked it" in my opinion.

Anyhow, back to the topic at hand. Which is context. I do not grade a book by a debut author in the same way that I grade a book by Nora Roberts. I also do not grade a quickie erotica book in the same way I grade a full-length historical. Why?

Consider this analogy. You're a food critic. One day you go to a diner, the next to a chi-chi French gourmet restaurant. You have to grade the food. Well, food is food, right? Your grading scale should be based on taste. The same criteria apply to both places.

Bull pucky.

This makes no logical sense. A diner serves greasy, fattening comfort food. Large quantities of it. A French gourmet restaurant serves tiny portions of artistically arranged food, using more unusual and sophisticated ingredients. Food is not food. Your expectations at the French restaurant are completely different than at the diner. If the French restaurant served you a big ass bowl of macaroni and cheese, they would probably get a 1-star rating (whereas that same food could earn the diner a 5 star rating if the mac was tasty!). Likewise, if a diner served 3 sprigs of arugula on a plate you would be outraged and demand your money back.

Context is everything.

A quickie erotica should be sexy and satisfying. I'm not looking for in-depth character development in a 20 page story. But I expect the sex scenes to be entertaining and not repetitive. A full-length historical by Eloisa James has a different set of expectations. I am looking for fully formed, flawed characters, a satisfying storyline, luscious sex scenes, and an intense and emotional romance. A debut author with a small publisher? Can she write, is the story cohesive, satisfying, entertaining? I don't expect a contemporary to have the same world-building details as a sci fi romance, or a fantasy/UF to have the same level of spice as an erotica. Each sub-genre has its own set of expectations.

Context is everything.

So, my 5-star rating for a debut author doesn't necessarily mean the same thing as a 5-star rating for Julia Quinn. Nor should it. I don't expect a newbie writer to have the same level of mastery of fiction-writing as Julia Quinn.

Some folks will disagree with me (oh, the horror!)....but this is my not-so-humble opinion about reviewing.

Luckily for me, I like macaroni and cheese, and arugula salad. Each has its merits and drawbacks, but I can appreciate both when they are done well.

Appreciating the vast diversity of the romance genre,

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Penelope's Observations, Irritations, and Revelations about NYC

I'm back from NYC! Had a fabulous time visiting with my sis, made some new friends, saw some old friends, and got a whole lotta doxie love!

Here are some observations about the Big Apple....

1.) A lot of furry animals died to keep the women of Manhattan warm at winter time. Seriously, I cannot believe how many fur coats I saw. (Where's a pail of fake blood when you need one?)

2.) Someone forgot to tell New Yorkers that smoking causes lung cancer.

3.) When you go to purchase tickets for the Top of the Rock and you ask the clerk if the view is clear, and she says "On a scale of 1-5, it's a five!"...don't believe her. It's cloudy as sh*t and you can't see a damned thing.

4.) French Bull Dogs snort and purr like a kitty when you rub their bellies.

5.) French Chocolate Shops + Day Before Valentine's Day = 1 pce. candy costs $15. Ha ha haa...holy crap, you gotta be kidding me.

6.) Had the best cup of coffee in my life at Gaby Restaurant at the Sofitel Hotel on W. 44th Street.

7.) The handlers and dog-owners at Westminster are fantastic. Friendly, talkative, lovely people.

8.) The dogs at Westminster are incredibly good sports. After primping, polishing, showing, dealing with a lot of stressful travel and the anxiety of the competition, they are wagging their tails and ready for a snuggle with everyone. I could just eat them up! (Or pop one in my tote bag and run away!).

9.) The live butterfly exhibit at the Natural History Museum is exquisite. It will blow you away!

10.) There is such incredible energy, color and life in China Town and Time Square. My kids were spell-bound. (Except when a gigantic freakin' rat ran across my husband's shoe...hee gross is that?).

Butterfly at the American Museum of Natural History

Matching beards....excellent!

Topiary bushes competing.

Long-haired doxies, looking so fine.

 Weenies all in a row.

Wire-haired doxies in action.

Borzoi...fiercely loyal dog found in Christine Feehan's Dark Symphony. Check out Penelope's review.

Chewie, a small bundle of wire-haired love.

See more photos at The Quirky Ladies!


Friday, February 11, 2011

Beard of the Day

Ha ha! The only beard that counts this week! The sweet, lovable whiskers on a wirehaired doxie.

I will be gone from Saturday-Tuesday for my trip to NYC to see the Westminster Dog Show. Hope everyone has a great weekend and a festive Valentine's Day. I will try to check in via Twitter if possible.

Super quickie reading update: I read the crazy Orca shapeshifter book, The Orca King by D. Foster. It wasn't half bad (B-)...I enjoyed the Native American stuff, the interracial lovin' angle, and the legend was sort of sweet. The yucky flash-back at the end was a downer, but other than that, it was pretty decent. That'll teach me to make fun of funky Orca shapeshifting books. Bring on the gingerbread shapeshifter! I am sooooo ready for that one! Ha!

Ready for The Big Apple, and A Posse of Barking, Swaggering Weenie Dogs,

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Countdown to Valentine Weenie Dog Extravaganza

I am so excited for my trip to New York to see the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, I am practically hyperventilating. My daughter (8 years old and ready to rock-n-roll) and I are attending this sacred event at Madison Square Garden on Valentine's Day. Today I am getting ready by (1) looking for clothes w/ weenie dogs, and (2) looking for jewelry with weenie dogs. And, I guess I'll confirm train tickets and stuff like that, too.

For some inexplicable reason, the topiary bushes I mean poodles, always seem to final in the Best In Show event. A dachshund has never won Westminster. This is a travesty against weenie dogs world-wide. I am considering picketing the front of the show with a huge sign that says STOP THE MADNESS WEENIE DOGS MUST WIN WESTMINSTER TOPIARY BUSHES GO HOME.

I'm not sure if my daughter will be on board with this plan or not. If I promise her a new American Girl doll, she will probably join me.

Happy Day,

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Review of The Princess and The Penis by RJ Silver

The Princess and The Penis by RJ Silver

After reading about 14,952 romance novels, a few things become clear. No matter what the story is about--a duke, a werewolf, a football player, a Carpathian vampire, a steampunky swashbuckler, a baker, a lawyer, a candlestick maker, or even an Orca shapeshifter--the real star of the show is actually...the penis. Yes, this is in fact true. It gets tons of attention, pages and pages of highly detailed description, and often saves the day.

If you have one male hero and one female heroine, then the star is one penis. If you have a slash novel (M/M), then you've got two. If you have a kinky erotica, there could be dozens, God help us. And if you have an alien or animal breed or whatever, you might find barbs or double-headed monsters, etc etc. The sky is really the limit. And by the end of the book, you've become intimately familiar with this star...its shape, size, texture, taste and performance ability.

Now imagine that you want to write a satire about romance. Why not eliminate the middle man and get right down to business? Just make the "hero" a penis. A big ole penis who romances a princess.

Well, hell...that is the most freakin' brilliant, clever, witty, and quirky premise for a story I've read in a very long time.

Not only has RJ Silver (who is a man, by the way) come up with a fabulous premise for this story, he has executed it perfectly. This book has everything...awesome cover art (look at her face! hee hee), snappy dialogue, a kind-hearted princess who loves to cuddle her new best bud just like her pet ferret, a flabbergasted king and queen who are stymied by their daughter's new "friend," an evil underendowed villain, great sidekicks (the aunties) for even more comedic relief, and finally, a true hero....a giant penis who has been bewitched, and only a kiss can set him free. (And yes, the princess gives the giant penis a kiss! Naughty, naughty girl!).

I'm not sure what RJ Silver has in mind for an encore, but I, for one, will be reading it.

Grade: A

Delighted with this wickedly delicious satire,

P.S. Right now the story is available for free at Goodreads!

ETA: Here is the link to RJ's website...he is hilarious...check it out!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Teaser Tuesday

After a long, dry spell (six months--since my heart attack), I finally starting writing again. Yesterday I cranked out 1070 words on a new story....a "botanical" paranormal called L'Araldo di Primavera (The Herald of Spring). 

Here's a quickie teaser...hope you like it!

Twenty years ago....

            When Flora LaGuarda was five years old, she discovered an overgrown, weed-infested garden hidden behind her Papa's tool shed. A rusty gate creaked open as she approached, which she found quite welcoming and polite. Vines of bittersweet tugged at her anklets and milkweed pods exploded, showering her with silky fluff. She touched a thorny rose, and all at once the baby buds swelled, then burst, releasing a heady fragrance. Within seconds magenta blooms weighed heavily on the bush, the lush flower heads nodding in the sunshine. Flora turned to find Papa behind her, leaning thoughtfully on a rake.
            "Hmm," he said.
            "Hmm," she replied.
            He pulled off his faded Red Sox cap and scratched the small scrub of hairs on the top of his head. "Well, looks like you got a green thumb, Flora LaGuarda. Just like your Grandma." He slapped the hat across one thigh, dislodging a cloud of dust, then set it back on his head and nodded to her. "Time for lunch."
            Flora ran out of the garden, leaving a path of lush green growth in her wake. The gate banged shut behind her, and a clump of moss fell from the sign at the top. L'Araldo di Primavera it read.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Monday Morning Update: The Good, The Bad, & The &$*#@ Superbowl

Let's start with the good, shall we?

My son won first place in the 50 breast yesterday, and 2nd place in 50 butterfly.

I have been reading Nico Rosso's web series called Dead Drop on Tumblr. It's excellent. Here's the link to the first episode if you want to check it out. He posts a new chapter every day.

I'm heading to New York City this weekend to watch the weenie dogs at the Westminster Dog Show.

Now, the bad.

In spite of a nice selection of great reading materials on my Kindle (Zoë Archer's series, Taken to the Limit by Nico Rosso, and When Beauty Tamed the Beast by Eloisa James), I seem to have developed a penchant for train wrecks. As in, I-know-this-book-is-gonna-suck-trainwreck-bad-but-I'm-gonna-read-it-anyway. Why? I don't know. It must be the same reason I continue to read Us Weekly online even though there is some asinine story about the freakin' Kardashian sisters every day. It's a sickness.

Both are shapeshifter about a werewolf who likes to pee around his cabin, the other about an Orca whale (God help me!!!!). The werewolf book (A Wicked Wolf by Brenda Williamson) I already read...the whole damned thing. I endured endless pages of mindless sex scenes, a piss-happy werewolf who keeps confusing his new ho with his dead wife, a ding-a-ling heroine who (a) doesn't notice the guy she is boinking is turning into a werewolf for 3 days!!!!!, and (b) forgets she has 2 siblings at home while consumed with lusty Lycan lovin. This gem is filled with purple prose ("He sucked at the creamy essence trickling from her quivering folds"), a ridiculous storyline involving a real estate transaction, and finally, the I-couldn't-see-that-one-coming dramatic revelation that the bad guy is....(wait for it)....a wolfy lawyer! Sigh. Here are my 2 favorite lines from the book....

"As much as he wanted to hump the fertile bitch, he wanted a devoted, nurturing mother for his offspring more."

....and this masterpiece.....

"For the first time in his life, he'd had his ass licked by someone he cared about."

Hee hee hee....oh Lordy!

FYI, plenty of folks loved this book at Goodreads, and at least one reader noted that the author has written better material. Read at your own risk. Although I wouldn't recommend it.

The Orca book (The Orca King by Darragha Foster) is on the TBR pile. Gulp. Do I dare to read an Orca shapeshifter book? That is the question for the week.....

And finally, the @#$%&* Superbowl.

Stillers! How could you???? You raised our hopes and smashed us into little bits in the final two minutes of the game. Sniff, sniff.

Okay, I'm over it.

Happy Monday, Happy Reading, Happy Writing, Happy Shapeshifters for All!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Da Game

I'm from Da Burgh. Nuff said.

Go, Stillers!

Rock on,

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Penny's Roasted Beet Salad

Here is a delicious salad I made this week. My husband loves it! I am really into warm salads during the winter time. They are nice and cozy, and still very healthy.

Roasted Beet Salad on Greens

2 bunches of beets...can use 1 bunch red beets and 1 bunch golden beets, if desired
1/3 c. olive oil
2 T. sherry vinegar
1 t. coarse (whole seed) mustard
freshly ground pepper to taste
fresh greens (mache, mesclun, arugula, whatever you prefer)
fresh, good quality goat cheese
toasted hazelnuts, chopped

Preheat oven to 400. Rinse beets, then cut off greens and ends. Chop beets into halves or quarters (keep skin on). Put them in the middle of a large square of tin foil, then seal up the foil into a pouch (make sure it's tight, or beet juice will escape and make a big mess!). Put the pouch on a cookie tray, and roast for about 30 minutes, or until a fork slides easily into the beets. Open up foil pouch and let the beets cool for a bit. Using fingers or a fork/spoon, slide beet skins off (they should slide right off). Slice beets and put into bowl.

Make the dressing. Whisk together olive oil, vinegar and mustard. Add pepper. You may need to use more or less vinegar/mustard according to your taste buds. Sherry vinegar is strong, so be careful to add just a dash (a tablespoon or two) to the olive oil, and then see how it goes.

Add a bit of the dressing to the beet bowl and gently toss. For individual servings, put some greens on a plate, drizzle a bit of dressing on top. Then place some beets on the nest of greens, and top with fresh goat cheese and toasted hazelnuts.

Note: there is no salt in this don't need it!



Friday, February 4, 2011

Beard of the Day

Happy times for sci fi geeks everywhere! The SyFy Channel has been showing lots of episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and I am in heaven! I've watched pretty much every episode of this show.  Jean Luc is the bestest, baddest captain of all time, and I love the whole crew. It's interesting how Worf, the first Klingon main character in Star Trek, changed physically over the course of seven years. At the beginning of the series, he looked sort of dorky--his hair was short and he had a certain vulnerability in his expression. By the end of the show, he had bad-ass long hair, a super intense gaze, and an extremely commanding presence. His hyper masculinity and deep, delicious voice were so very sexy! And, he's rocking the whole facial hair thing with a funky beard/stache ensemble that only a Klingon could carry off. In fact, Worf (and the Klingon males in general) are sort of the ultimate alpha males of the universe.

(Mindless bit of trivia about Klingon beards...they were "designed to be Elizabethan, combining prehistoric and aristocratic elements"...from Wikipedia. I find this fascinating...since the Klingons really combined that caveman feel with a regal, sophisticated vibe. Very cool tidbit. Thanks, Wikipedia!)

For those of you not on the Star Trek bandwagon, you will probably by stymied by today's Beard of the Day choice. But for those of you who stay up until 1:00 AM to watch re-runs of the Next Generation, you'll totally be getting it.

Qapla' (Good bye in Klingon, hee hee!)

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Groundhog Update

Happy Groundhog Day from sunny icy New England where we're pissed off enjoying another snow day, shovelling until our backs break sipping a hot toddy in front of the roaring fire duraflame log, and praying that the god-damned rodent adorable groundhog predicts an early spring.

Today I'm reading a ridiculous pissing werewolf book A Wicked Wolf by Brenda Williamson, recommended by a good friend at Goodreads as a stellar train-wreck sort of book. Next up, Taken to the Limit by Nico Rosso, written by a vineyard owner sci fi writer, hubby of Zoë Archer.

All my worst, seriously bad attitude best,