Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Bonus Round

As I was walking into my son's middle school on Tuesday, about to partake of the dreaded "curriculum night"---forced to endure boring lectures by school administrators, bumble around trying to find Room 205, and experience unwanted algebra flashbacks---I got hit with a thought. (That happens to me sometimes). I didn't feel sorry for myself. I didn't mind that I had 2 and 1/2 hours of boredom ahead of me. What I thought was....

This is all good. I'm alive. It's the "Bonus Round."

And I realized, as I walked behind a mom with low-rider jeans meant for a 13 year old girl, that this is the new way I view my life. 

Everything after my heart attack is The Bonus Round. I could have died, but I didn't. So even boring, mundane, irritating, exasperating, horrifying, difficult, emotional, and painful experiences are all good. Because I'm still here. I can't get too worked up about the bus always being late, glitter all over the house, and the dog peeing on my pillow. Because my daughter has fun on the bus, my house sparkles like a Britney Spear's costume, and I can switch pillows with my hubby and he'll never know. Stuff that used to bum me out is now viewed with more humor and good grace.

I'm not sure if that means I'm older and wiser. Definitely older. But I still listen to High School Musical, so maybe not wiser or necessarily more mature. But I like this new attitude. The Bonus Round is good. It makes you appreciate stuff you used to take for granted. It makes you less likely to complain. It makes you laugh when you realize your husband has glitter on his ass just as he is about to go to work.

The Bonus Round is all good. I'll take it.


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Get Ready For Oskar Klaus....

He's got green punk hair.
Serious attitude.
And an address in the North Pole.

Get ready for Oskar.....


Sweet Magik, coming to a bookstore near you...11-4-11


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Review of The Ballerina, The Gymnast, and The Yoga Master by RJ Silver

I think RJ Silver might be my long-lost twin brother.

I tried to bookmark every place in this book that made me laugh out loud while I was reading it, and I realized I was bookmarking every single page.

No shit.

It takes a certain kind of talent to be able to make fun of people, and do it in a light-hearted, non-offensive way, and to add a sweet optimism into that mixture of cynical satire.

RJ Silver has that whole thing down.

Following up a book titled The Princess and The Penis is a pretty tall order. What to do for an encore? Well, once again Silver has penned a short, sweet, hilarious, clever, adorable story with an HEA. There's really nothing more a girl could ask for. (At least this girl).

My favorite books have symmetry in them, both in character arcs and storylines. For example, the stuffy professor lightens up by the end of the book and learns how to laugh. The horrible tragedy that occurs in Chapter One leads to a romantic and satisfying HEA at the end of the book. The man who has everything (a billionaire) really has nothing because he can't find love. Until he does. With a chocolate-loving stranger sitting next to him on a park bench. (That's this story, by the way).

I don't want to spoil the book, so suffice it to say that RJ Silver makes fun of everyone--people, places and things--and you are laughing right along with him. Until the adorable end which was absolute perfection.

He might not admit it, but I think Silver is a romance-lover at heart. After you finish laughing at everyone and yourself, there's nothing better than snuggling up with the one you love. (Or dressing up like a fireman and playing "Save The Damsel In Distress.")

Grade: A

Loving this gem!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Monday Morning Update: The Commencement Of Half-Assed Week

This is the commencement of "Half-Assed Week" which is what I call weeks with half-days and additional days-off from school. The kids love them. I hate them. We have a half-day on Tuesday, and a full day off on Thursday, and of course this is the week I have 10 million things to get done.

1.) Prepare for my talk on Saturday for the Rhode Island Romance Writers. It's titled Penelope's Plethora of Promotional Proverbs: Promoting Your Book. I think the title is pretty much self-explanatory, as well as an excellent example of alliteration.

2.) Read The Ballerina, the Gymnast, and the Yoga Master by RJ Silver. In preparation for RJ's new release coming out soon, I decided to read all his back titles. It's the perfect week for satire.

3.) Write reviews for An Offer From A Gentleman, The Viscount Who Loved Me, To Sir Phillip With Love, and Romancing Mr. Bridgerton. My Bridgerton re-reading extravaganza continues. I think it is satisfying a deep-needed craving for pure romance, as opposed to willy-nilly boinking and unwelcome BJs.

4.) Take 600 old romance novels to the used book store and attempt not to shame myself by bawling like a baby. I can do it!

5.) Hopefully I will be getting my new cover for Lumberjack In Love, as well as the advertising banner for Sweet Magik. Will post everything when they're ready for action!

6.) Attend middle school curriculum night at 6:30 PM on Tuesday. Attend the mandatory parent meeting for swim team at 6:30 PM on Tuesday. Notice a problem with that? Sigh.

7.) Plan promotional events for Sweet Magik, which is coming out Nov. 4. Also do promotional and other tasks for NECRWA spring conference committee.

Me to stylist: Nothing subtle. I want big chunks of color! I want to look dramatic! Make it look like a lion's mane!
Sylist: Okay.
5 Hours (and $300) later I leave the salon with teeny-tiny streaks of subtle highlights. #^$%@*$&!!!!!!

9.) Work on WIP? It could happen. Not.

10.) Drink generous glass of red wine each evening. For my heart.

Please enjoy the incredibly embarrassing photo of me from the 1980's. I used to dye my big, fluffy I'm not sure exactly what that freakin' color is, but it certainly isn't anything found in the natural world. Also note the hideous pink satin shirt I'm wearing, and enough make-up to keep all of the Maybelline grandchildren in college for years to come.

Happy Freakin' Monday,

Friday, September 23, 2011

Is It Healthy If It Has A Fruit In It?

Last night I enjoyed a wonderful reunion with my Vassar buds, and I also discovered a new cocktail...a lychee martini. Thanks, Smita! Here's a simple recipe from the Food Network....

Lychee Martini

Ice cubes
6 oz. vodka (pronounce wod-ka if you're really drunk)
4 oz. lychee juice
Splash vermouth
2 lychees, for garnish

Shake it all up in a cocktail shaker with lots of ice! Pour into glass and add lychees as a garnish. Reminisce about the good old college days when you were a skinny, chain-smokin' party animal who could whip off a 20 page paper in one night. Sigh....ah, the good old days. When shoulder pads were in. And Janet Jackson was in "control." And no one had cell phones or computers. And Facebook didn't exist. Hard to believe that has been in this lifetime. Especially the shoulder pads!

Have a lovely weekend,

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Dear Mr. Publisher....

Dear Mr. Johnny Come Lately Publisher,

My name is Miranda B. Cuttlefish, and I have written a beautiful and romantic story about two young star-crossed lovers. The title is A Sweet Summertime Love. The heroine is a kind social worker who helps underprivileged children in her spare time, and the hero is a marine with a severe crew-cut who worships the ground she walks on. This lovely contemporary is a "sweet" other words, no unsavory scenes, if you get my drift. I hope you will consider publishing it. I am a former nun who is following my life-long dream of becoming a romance novelist.

Miranda B. Cuttlefish


Dear Ms. Cuttlefish,

I read your story and found it quite intriguing. I especially like the hero's crew cut. However, I am wondering if you are open to making a few changes to the manuscript before publication. Rated G "sweet" romances are not that popular right now. Could we include some oral sex scenes? In other words, they don't have to "go all the way" but a blow job will surely help sales. What do you think?



Dear John,

Well, I am slightly uncomfortable with those sorts of unnatural sex acts, but I suppose if you think it will help sales, I would be willing to give it a try.



Dear Ms. Cuttlefish,

I have looked over your re-writes and the oral sex scenes need some work. For example, just placing a chaste kiss on the tip of a penis does not actually constitute oral sex. Also, my colleagues think that a menage scenario would spice this story up a bit. One of them also suggested a spanking scene. Maybe when they are visiting the grandmother who lives in Sicily? What do you think?



Dear John,

I am not familiar with the French language. What exactly does menage mean? And I'm not sure a spanking scene would be appropriate at that emotional point in the story. His grandmother has just died, and you want him to spank the heroine? I don't get it.



Dear Ms. Cuttlefish,

After further discussion, my colleagues have agreed to publish your book if the following changes are made to the manuscript....

1.) The hero is a vampire.
2.) The heroine is a submissive who requires copious amounts of flogging in order to orgasm.
3.) At least 4 scenes in the book should include anal sex and butt plugs.
4.) A male/male sex scene (potentially orgy) should be added during the marine reunion chapter.
5.) Instead of a crew cut, the hero should have long, shaggy hair (evidently women find this attractive).

Please make the necessary revisions and we will get back to you.



Dear John,

1.) The majority of my story takes place during daylight hours, so I'm not sure how to transform the hero into a vampire, since he would be instantly incinerated.
2.) What is a butt plug?
3.) How many characters need to be involved in an "orgy"? Just looking for a ball-park figure.
4.) I really feel the crew cut is important to the hero's character since he is a marine.



Dear Ms. Cuttlefish,

We were pleasantly surprised by your re-writes. Who knew a nun would be so creative with a marine super-orgy scene? That was truly inspired. We now feel your book is ready for publication. In fact, I predict stunning sales for this work. Thank you so much for your flexibility.



Dear John,

This has certainly been an eye-opening experience for me. After doing some "hands-on" research at the local BDSM club to ensure my book had an authentic feel to it, I am now considered one of the premiere female dominatrixes in my area. I can't wait for Spanking Henrietta to hit the stores. Thanks so much for your help.


Monday, September 19, 2011

Review of Winter Woman by Jenna Kernan

Winter Woman by Jenna Kernan

Penelope's introduction to the American frontier was the same as many other small girls....that is to say, Little House On The Prairie. Yes, I voraciously read that entire series, and I learned about how difficult it was for pioneers to survive. Cold, unforgiving winters, the threat of starvation, animal attacks, hungry hordes of grasshoppers, sickness without modern medicine, and Native Americans who could be friend or foe.

(I also suspect that my beard fetish may have its origins with Pa Ingalls, but let's not go there.)

Needless to say, there is the potential for a lot of conflict in frontier-style romance novels. I usually don't like them because of this. In particular, the threat of hideous torture, scalping and disfigurement by angry natives causes me great anxiety. So much so, that I can't relax and enjoy the book.

After attempting to read several well-beloved pioneer/western romance novels, and being horribly disappointed, I gave up. But someone must have recommended Winter Woman to me (I suspect it's because the hero has a beard for a good portion of the story), and I am so very glad I gave it a go! It is a superb story, with the just the right amount of conflict for me. Cordelia is a missionary's widow, forced to survive the unrelenting winter by herself after her husband's ill-timed death. When the hero Nash first meets her, she is starved, afraid, and desperate. He is gruff, coarse, and has no interest in taking care of this woman. 

Their love story was absolute perfection. The skinny city girl learns how to trap and fish and skin a bear, how to fight and trust and use her sharp mind to survive any circumstances. The lone frontiersman learns to share his life with this new partner. He is at first shocked by her determination and willingness to learn and adapt; she earns his respect, then his lust, and finally his love. And eventually, he owes her his very life after a terrifying bear attack. Nash starts out as a wounded animal, devastated by the loss of his first wife, living a solitary and brutal life in the wilderness. Cordelia thaws out his heart and gives him hope for his future--that it could include a wife and family, something he had totally given up on. 

There is a wonderful symmetry in this book, a perfect balance of hard and soft, brutal and kind, past and future. It was touching and suspenseful and unexpected. Who would think a well-educated and religious woman would be the perfect life partner for a cynical and stubborn frontiersman? Well, Jenna Kernan made me fall totally in love with both of these characters, and this book is a gem.

Grade: A

Digging those pioneer beards,

Friday, September 16, 2011

Most Disturbing Headline Of The Week And Beard Of The Day

"Justin Theroux Hints He Shaved Beard For Jen Aniston"

According to US Weekly (yeah, I read US Weekly, what's it to ya?), Justin Theroux shaved off this most excellent beard for his new girlfriend, Jennifer Aniston. This article states that Theroux was "proud" of his "full, hipster-friendly beard he sported until early summer." However, during an interview with GQ magazine, he admitted "Certain chicks dig it; certain chicks don't." He shaved his beard shortly after they finished shooting the movie Wanderlust (and after he hooked up with Miss Jen). 

All I have to say is.....that beeyotch!

Happy Beardy Friday To All!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

For Wallflowers Everywhere

From Romancing Mister Bridgerton, by Julia Quinn.....

"I would like to marry Mr. Bridgerton," Penelope said, trying to summon up as much quiet dignity as she could manage. "He asked me and I said yes."

"Well, of course you said yes," her mother retorted. "You'd have to be an idiot to say no."

"Mrs. Featherington," Colin said tightly, "I suggest you begin treating my future wife with a bit more respect."

"Colin, it's not necessary," Penelope said, placing her hand on his arm, but the truth was--her heart was soaring. He might not love her, but he cared about her. No man could defend a woman with such fierce protectiveness without caring for her a little.

"It is necessary," he returned. "For God's sake, Penelope, I arrived with you. I made it abundantly clear that I required your presence in the room, and I practically shoved Felicity out the door to fetch her watercolors. Why on earth would anyone think I wanted Felicity?"

Mrs. Featherington opened and closed her mouth several times before finally saying, "I love Penelope, of course, but--"

"But do you know her?" Colin shot back. "She's lovely and intelligent and has a fine sense of humor. Who wouldn't want to marry a woman like that?"

Penelope would have melted to the floor if she weren't already holding on to his hand. "Thank you," she whispered, not caring if her mother heard her, not even caring if Colin heard her. Somehow she needed to say the words for herself.

Not what she thought she was.

Lady Danbury's face swam before her eyes, her expression warm and just a little bit cunning.

Something more. Maybe Penelope was something more, and maybe Colin was the only other person to realize that as well.

It made her love him all the more.


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Updates On Challenges, Vows, Blood Oaths 'N Stuff

How am I doing on my TBR Challenge and "Vow Not To Purchase Any Etsy Items In September" and other goals? Hmmm......let's see.....

1.) I'm doing pretty well with the TBR Challenge so far. I only purchased one book, and it was 99 cents. Right now I am about to start a re-read of Romancing Mister Bridgerton by Julia Quinn. It's not actually helping to decrease my TBR pile, but at least I didn't purchase anything new. So that's a tie I guess. By the way, this book inspired my pen-name: Penelope!

2.) As for my Etsy addiction...Well, I finally caved. What I wanted to buy: dog bed, dog tag, cool prints, felted bowls, adorable hat, pottery, and the most gorgeous tiara I have ever seen. (I know, I know....when the hell would I ever wear a tiara?) What I did buy....was one gorgeous pendant necklace with citrine and yellow mystic quartz on gold hoops. I love yellow things. Yellow is sunny and happy and positive and inspiring. (And I'm so full of sh*t because I'm trying to rationalize my purchase...hee hee!).

3.) My purge of old print romance novels will be taking place next week. I'm hauling about 600 old books to the used book store. I'll post pics of the traumatic event. Good times.....not.

4.) New Vow Starting Today: I gave up coffee. And I'm substituting.....dirty hot water herbal tea. Gulp. This day is gonna suck.

5.) Diet goals: I'm pushing for the 50-pound weight loss mark. I've been hovering at around 45 pounds down, and I'm having trouble moving past that. So this month I'm returning to my old, strict diet to see if I can jump-start the weight loss. Just me, some celery stix, and dirty hot water herbal tea. Did you know that Starbucks is now serving their pumpkin spice lattes? Sniff, sniff.

6.) Writing goals: Now that the kids are back in school, I can get back to work. I have a hot bearded lumberjack to write about. And a sad bearded farmer to write about. And some beardy Klaus brothers to write about. And finally, a bearded botanist. What do all these things have in common? That's right! They're all men. Good job.

Well, that's the wrap-up! Hope all yinz have a great day. I'm sure mine will be swell, as I drink dirty hot water herbal tea and munch on celery stix and manage a caffeine-withdrawal headache without motrin. I wonder when my new necklace will arrive?????


Monday, September 12, 2011

Coz Nothing Says Bad-Ass More Than Pearls And A Cardigan...

Many moons ago, I read my first paranormal romance novel....Christine Feehan's Dark Prince. It was dark, melodramatic, violent at times. Vampires and vampire-hunters killed, maimed, tortured. Carpathian heroes dominated, defended, and crushed any heroine-resistance. I could only imagine how bad-ass the author must be. Any person who created such a riveting, dark and dramatic tale must certainly look the part. So here is how I imagined Christine a long, black duster, leather pants, 6-inch high stiletto boots, long flowing black hair, talon-like fingernails, smoky eye-shadow. Tall and voluptuous, with a smattering of bad-ass tattoos, probably one on her bosom. (Picture Sandra Dee from the end of Grease, only kicked up a couple of notches!).

What I discovered, is that she actually looks like this....

Oh...My....God! I couldn't believe it! The woman whose brain conjured up creamy skin and velvet sheaths and smoky-hot sex scenes and gruesome vampire deaths looked like someone's granny (she is)....cute and cuddly and super nice and like someone who would probably make you a batch of brownies if you were sick. For Christ's sakes, the puppies have bows in their hair. Bows! Pink and blue! Ack!

This is the super bad-ass who created the Dark series? I could not believe it. And then I started to investigate some more of my favorite authors.

JR Ward, creator of trash-talking, super-pumped, highly sexed, killing machines. Would she wear shit-kickers like the brothers? Black leather pants and a nice collection of tats? I almost fell out of a chair when I saw her bleached-blond hair in a bun, strands of pearls around her neck, and some sunglasses straight out of Risky Business. Because nothing says "I'm a bad-ass urban fantasy writer" more than pearls, right? Her elegant country-club attire makes her look like a model for a Talbot's catalogue.

What about Julie Garwood? Jayne Ann Krentz? JAK writes dark and eerie paranormal romance, both contemporary and historical. I expected someone who had an air of mystery. Actually she is perky, cute, and totally wholesome. (See photo below). And Julie Garwood, who has created the most alpha-hot, totally domineering Scottish warriors, not to mention some dark and disturbing contemporary romantic suspense, looks like a cross between a librarian and a college professor.  

Julie Garwood, creator of hot, sexy Scottish dudes.

JAK...So cute I want to pinch her cheeks!

Then I started to meet some erotica writers. You know, the ones who write about menages, and BDSM, and butt plugs, and all kinds of scary stuff that make me want to curl up in the fetal position. And you know what? Most of them look like soccer moms, or grandmoms, or totally ordinary, non-goth got-no-Harley, women. What's up with that? Why do the folks writing these sexy, bad-ass, and sometimes extremely naughty books, look....well....sort of boring?

Because they have really wicked-awesome imaginations, that's why! You don't have to be a bad-ass biker girl to write like one. Or about one. Or about her 3 hunky boyfriends. You just need an extremely well-developed imagination.

There is one author who actually looks the part. Gail Carriger writes quirky, steampunky stories. And she looks quirky and steampunky. The perfect match!

Anyhow, I am constantly amused by the author photos at the back of romance novels. After finishing a steamy, sexy, naughty book, there is nothing more hilarious than seeing that Susi Q. Author actually looks like someone's granny who knits booties at Christmas-time.

It crushed my fantasy of what romance writers really look like, but as long as they keep cranking out the books I love, who cares?

Thinking I should get a strand of pearls,

Sunday, September 11, 2011

In Memory

"To live in hearts we leave behind
Is not to die."

Thomas Campbell, Hallowed Ground

Saturday, September 10, 2011


I am very excited to be a part of the 2012 Let Your Imagination Take Flight Conference this year! All of the Quirky Ladies are part of the conference committee....we are gearing up for a great shin-dig this spring. It is taking place April 27-28 in the charming and festive city of Salem, Massachusetts. This romance writers' meeting includes wonderful speakers, workshops, a book fair, agent and editor appointments, and lots of witchy entertainment in the historical city of Salem. We are just starting to consider workshop proposals, so if you're interested in presenting at this terrific conference, please submit your proposal. Here's a link for the Conference page on our website.

Hope to see lots of you there!


Friday, September 9, 2011

Alaskan Bad-Ass, Spunky Super-Sass, and Heartbreak Pass

I know.....I'm really stretching it with that title.

Three quickie reading updates....

1. Last Days Of Summer by Steve Kluger: Once again, Steve has put together a brilliant....let me repeat that--brilliant--story. The clever construction of the narrative--letters, announcements, newspaper clippings, etc--conveys a humorous, but also emotionally wrenching tale. It combines hilarious Jewish humor, baseball, and one of the most heart-breaking storylines I've ever read. In fact, I had a problem with the ending. I realize that the HEA-rule only applies to romance novels, but I'm not sure this ending was necessary, or even optimal, for this story. In spite of that, this book was another shining example of Steve's talent, and you're meshugana if you don't read it. Grade: A-

2. A Cold Day For Murder (Kate Shugak #1) by Dana Stabenow: After inhaling Stabenow's Liam Campbell series with the utmost glee, I decided to give her Kate Shugak series a go. It still has the fascinating Alaskan flavor, but this time we get a heroine to follow instead of a hero. I enjoyed this book, but it was definitely missing the spark of the Liam series. I was trying to figure out why....I think the main reason is that we get more emotionally invested in the characters, and the relationships, in the Liam series. This book is about the mystery, which is fine. But one of the things I adored about the Liam Campbell series is that the characters had a lot of depth, and those stories were just as important as the mystery to solve. I'm not sure if I'll continue with this series or not. Grade: B

3. Wait Until Midnight by Amanda Quick: I needed something light and sexy and comforting after I finished the heart-breaking ending of Last Days Of Summer. And this book by Amanda Quick is what I chose--it's one of my favorite re-reads. It has AQ's super-sassy-style heroine, who also just happens to be a writer for a sensational newspaper; it has the beta-but-masterful hero who is proper on one hand, and fiercely attracted to said spunky heroine on the other; it has an interesting mystery/storyline, wonderful supporting characters, and love scenes that manage to be sexy, adorable and satisfying all at the same time. AQ is my hero! AQ for president! AQ, AQ, AQ! (I'm a fan). Anyhow, it's a keeper. Grade: A

Happy Weekend Everyone!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

A Breath Of Fresh (Testosterone-Filled) Air: Review of On The Fly by Jillian Brookes-Ward

As most of you know, I am part of a romance writer's critique group called The Quirky Ladies. Submitting work to them results in fairly uniform consequences. "VM" bags my adverbs. "MP" and "DD" make comments such as "Where is the penis in this scene?" (That is an actual comment from one of my WIPS. No kidding). "TT" adds in lots of LOLs and grammatical corrections. "SW" points out when my POV changes are unclear. And all of them love to point out one of the most important observations in critique. When a male character doesn't sound....male enough. When he a girl.

For example, if a male character thinks to himself....."Wow. Her eyes are so beautiful. They are as blue as an azure colored sky with flecks of cerulean."...then, this is problem. Because, let's face it. Unless a guy is a gay interior decorator, he has no freakin' clue what azure or cerulean mean. A real guy might think something like....."Wow. She has pretty eyes." But more likely, a guy would actually think "Wow. That chick has a great pair of knockers." Unfortunately, if you're writing a romance novel, the knockers comment might not be appropriate. It's not very romantic, or heroic, or sweet. But a real guy, in a real situation, could probably give less than a crap about a girl's eye color.

Now, I love me some romance. Even if it's not very realistic. But every once in a while, it's nice to get a glimpse into the real male psyche. Not through rose-colored glasses, but rather through a sticky beer stein. It's a breath of fresh air to jump into a real man's point of view. And it's especially impressive when that POV has been written by a woman.

On The Fly by Jillian Brookes-Ward is not a romance novel. It's not erotica. It actually doesn't have much of a plot. There's no big adventure, or character arc, or profound resolution at the end of the book. It's a portrait of a guy. That's it. (With a bit of a cool paranormal twist at the end.) You know those cartoons "Diagram Of A Dog's Brain?" Here's an example....

This is real basic stuff. It's not complicated. Well, if you made a diagram of Brian's brain (he's the main character in On The Fly), it would have two things.....

1. Fly-fishing
2. F*cking

That's it. And you know what? It feels totally real. Because honestly, I'll bet there are many, many guys out there who really only think about those two things.

Other things that this book has going for it? It is totally British (ETA: Oops! I mean Scottish!), which I love. It has great spots of humor. It is well-written. The pacing of the book is perfect for Brian's story. We sort of lumber along in the narrative, watching him fish, f*ck, and look like an ass, as he bumbles along. The fly-fishing stuff is way cool. And I like Brian's vulnerability. It is less than heroic, but so very authentic. A 40-something guy, forced through an emasculating divorce, living at home with his parents, his mother doing his laundry!!, and all he cares about is getting out on the water. And shagging any and all available lassies.

This story was an entertaining breath of fresh air. It's probably not for everyone. Especially folks looking for heroic acts and a complicated storyline. But if you're interested in reading a portrait of a real guy, warts, sore back, and all, then this book is for you. (And it's only 99 cents at Amazon!).

Grade: A-


Monday, September 5, 2011

"1100 Men Went In The Water, 316 Men Come Out & The Sharks Took The Rest": A Writer's Lesson From Jaws

I often complain about the fact that AMC shows the same films over and over again. Except for when Jaws is on. I swear they have shown that movie 10 billion times, and every single time I watch it. It is, without a doubt, the greatest film I have ever seen. It's a classic that has stood the test of fancy special effects, no computer enhancement. Just a great story, great acting, and great directing.

If you ever get the chance to watch the documentary The Making Of Jaws, don't miss it. It is absolutely fascinating. "The story behind the story" of the making of Jaws is unbelievable. Steven Spielberg was a brand new director....a youngster with no power in Hollywood. Nothing went according to plan for this movie. The biggest obstacle was "Bruce"--the mechanical shark. He was meant to be in the bulk of scenes for the movie, but he kept breaking down and messing up their shooting schedule. They were way behind schedule, way over budget, and Spielberg was getting unbelievable pressure from the Powers That Be. 

He had to take a step back and think outside of the box. Rewrite the screenplay while they were in Martha's Vineyard filming the damned movie. Bruce, who was supposed to the star of the show, was a big, broken-down piece o' shit. In fact, Bruce was supposed to be in the opening scene of the film--but he wasn't working at the moment. So Spielberg rewrote that scene without the shark.

How to make a shark attack scene without the freakin' shark? Would it work? Would it be successful?

That scene is one of the most dramatic, riveting and scary-ass opening sequences on film. Because of what's NOT there. We don't know what's happening to the poor girl in the water. We just know it's bad. It's evil. And it's inescapable. And Spielberg realized that.

Which brings me to the point of this post. This is a great lesson for writers (or really folks in any sort of creative field)....

Sometimes what you're leaving out of the story can be just as important as what you're putting in.

Spielberg's experience with this film is a great source of inspiration for me. When the WIP isn't working, take a big step back. Think outside of the box. Way outside of the box. Do you need a new POV for that scene? A different way of looking at things? How do you want your reader to feel? Can you elicit those feelings without an info dump, spilling all your secrets at once? How can you build tension and fear without a villain in the room?

If you are looking for something cool to do some afternoon, I highly recommend watching this documentary. The stories about the actors, Martha's Vineyard, and the scuttlebutt behind the scenes is fabulous. Here is a link for the 30th anniversary edition of the movie plus the documentary. Treat yourself!

And finally, here is a clip of the greatest single scene in all of film history: Robert Shaw's monologue about the USS Indianapolis. Another cool tidbit from the documentary--originally, Shaw got rip-roaring drunk before they filmed this scene, but it was a huge disaster. They filmed it again the next day and it was perfection. Here ya go.....

Feeling the need to watch Jaws again,

Saturday, September 3, 2011

No More Books! Penny Takes The TBR Challenge!

I am in the midst of a fairly traumatic undertaking at the moment. Cleaning out my romance novel collection in the basement. I have hundreds and hundreds of print books piled up and I finally decided to take the bulk of them to a wonderful little used book store that specializes in romance. The photo above shows the books I absolutely refuse to part with. Most of these are books that I re-read often....such as Amanda Quick, Julie Garwood, Christine Feehan, Stephanie Laurens, etc. I also have old favorites by Julia Quinn, Lisa Kleypas, Mary Balogh, JR Ward, and others. I kept my all-time favorite top 20 re-reads, which include some contemporary, some erotica, historicals, etc.

Here is the pile going to the bookstore.....good-bye, my dear friends, good-bye!

Although I avoid most reading challenges, this month I decided to go along with one that my Goodreads group is encouraging....The TBR Challenge. For the entire month of September, I am not allowed to buy any books. (Which is a seriously good idea since I am spending all of my money on Etsy....hee hee!). I can only read books from my already-own TBR pile. I have plenty on Kindle, and I also have plenty of print copies. I'm hoping to read somewhere between 5-10 books this month. Here are the top contenders from my TBR pile....

Sam Wayland Destiny Calls
Sean Kennedy Tigers And Devils
Steve Kluger Last Days Of Summer
Terry Pratchett Going Postal
Mia Marlowe Touch Of A Thief
Jenna Kernan Winter Woman

After that, we'll see. I also have a workshop to prepare, a WIP to write, and preparations for my November release. It's gonna be a busy month!

I hope I can get these books off to the bookstore without shedding some tears. ☹

Wondering how big a credit I'll get at the used bookstore,

P.S. Here is a photo of me wearing one of my new Etsy purchases, a bookworm pendant. Hee!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Beard Of The Day And Other Updates

My Etsy addiction continues! This fabulous illustration, titled LUMBERJACK, CROW & MISTLETOE, is by Ryan Fowler. He actually has a whole subsection of his Etsy store for Lumberjacks....Win! And of course, he's from Vermont.

I love the monumental beard on this lumberjack. And I especially love the grumpy look on his face. This print is just fantastic.

On the reading update: I agreed to a "reading challenge" for the month of September....only books on my TBR pile. I'm not allowed to buy anything new. So, I'm starting out with On The Fly by Jillian Brookes-Ward. This isn't a romance novel, but it sure is entertaining. It's totally from a man's POV....all he thinks about are fly-fishing and boinking. Hee hee!

If you're interested, I put together a new Etsy Treasury called "Hopeless Romantic"....check it out!

Happy Holiday Weekend!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Penny's Quesadillas

Here's another great recipe for summer. We make our quesadillas on the grill, or you can use your panini-press. This oil! It's a healthier way to make quesadillas.

Penny's Quesadillas


-scallions, chopped
-fresh cilantro, chopped
-fresh tomatoes, chopped (I use yellow and red cherry tomatoes from my garden)
-grilled chicken, chopped (toss some chicken tenders with lemon juice and olive oil & S/P, throw them on the grill for a couple of minutes, then shred them up for the quesadillas)
-avocado, sliced
-fat free sour cream
-shredded cheese of your choice
-extras if you like them.....cans of sliced jalapenos, green chilies, jar of green salsa, etc.
-tortillas (I use mini flour tortillas, sometimes whole wheat)

Put one tortilla on the cutting board. Sprinkle with shredded cheese, chicken, scallions, cilantro, tomatoes, avocado, and any other extras you like. Put a few dots of sour cream on top...this makes the filling creamy. Place another tortilla on top, then gently place on the grill or panini press. Grill until the cheese has melted and the tortilla is slightly brown....just a few minutes. (You can flip it on the grill....carefully with a spatula so all the fillings don't fall out!). It will cook fast! You can slice them into quarters to serve. For a yummy Mexican meal, serve with fresh salsa, guacamole, and corn and black bean salad. (Oh yeah....don't forget the Coronas and lime, too!).