Thursday, May 31, 2012

Indie Authors Beware: Integrity Matters

Would you sell your soul to the devil to get your book published?

Would you sell your soul to the devil to make a bestseller list?

How far would you go?

I can't think of a group of people more vulnerable than writers with a dream. They are desperate to get published. They are desperate for success. They're easy prey for unscrupulous folks looking to make an easy buck.

The explosion of "indie" or "self-pubbed" writers has opened up a whole new sleazy world of self-professed "social media experts" and "promo consultants" who promise everything under the sun. For a buck. And unfortunately, newbie writers with little experience are very easy prey.

Indie Authors, let me tell you this....

.....Anyone who is offering to help you with your writing is a FRIEND.

.....Anyone who is offering to mentor you, in terms of craft and hands-on marketing experience, for FREE, is a FRIEND....

.....Anyone who gives you an HONEST critique, maybe one you don't want to hear, is a FRIEND....

.....Anyone who tells you it takes years of hard work and dedication and that you need to have patience is a FRIEND.....

.....Anyone who tells you that this isn't a numbers game---not about sales and bestseller lists----but about the QUALITY of your writing, is a FRIEND.....

....Anyone who tells you to get your friends and family to write glowing reviews on Amazon (without identifying themselves as F/F...aka "shills")....FRIEND? NOT SO MUCH.....

.....Anyone who tells you to make up fake identities at Amazon (sock-puppet) to give yourself glowing reviews....FRIEND? NOT SO MUCH....

....Anyone who tells you to down-vote bad ratings and reviews, and to encourage your friends to do the same....FRIEND? NOT SO MUCH....

....Anyone who tells you to put fake tags/labels on your book to crank your rank in a search engine....FRIEND? NOT SO MUCH....

....Anyone who tells you to offer a reciprocal service to other indie authors re: 5 star reviews (you give me a 5-star, and I'll give you a 5-star) without you actually reading the book....FRIEND? NOT SO MUCH.....

.....Anyone who tells you "I'll help you out if you promote me"....FRIEND? NOT SO MUCH.....

....Anyone who tells you to spam Facebook/Twitter/other social media all day with book announcements, tells you to do drive-by announcements, tells you to leave comments on other folks' blogs with your purchase link (even if it's not related to the blog post in any way), and generally encourages you to make an enormous nuisance of yourself in hopes of selling your book.....FRIEND? NOT SO MUCH.

Do you want to be a hard-working author interested in honing his craft and supporting his colleagues in an honest way? Or do you want to "game the system," and spend your time figuring out ways to lie and cheat your way to the top?

Bottom line: Do you think readers are dumb? We can't figure out that the 47 glowing 5-star reviews are all shills? Especially when we download a sample and it's filled with grammatical errors, piss-poor writing and typos? No matter how many fake reviews you get, the readers will sniff out the truth.

There are entire boards at Goodreads and Amazon which discuss "authors behaving badly"....the authors who have fake reviews, do spammy-style promo, and harass honest readers.

Since when did it become okay for authors to act like a bunch of sleazy used car-salesmen? Harassing folks, cheating, lying, and manipulating the system to get ahead?

To say that I am appalled by the so-called advice by some of these "experts" is an understatement.

Integrity matters.

To the indie authors who care about their writing, are honest and hard-working and have integrity, I say.....bravo. And thank you. We, the readers, appreciate your books, appreciate your honesty and integrity, and look forward to supporting you.

To the indie authors who are one small step above a used-car salesman, I say....Good luck. You're going to need it.


Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A Bunch of Dangly Bits

We had a big scare last night. Lucy got a beef skewer on one of those wooden sticks and gulped it down. I took her to the emergency vet and they did an endoscopy and removed the stick before it could cause any damage. She's still at the hospital, but hopefully I'll be picking her up later this morning. :^(

I had an entire Ranty McRantmeister post written for today, but I'm not in the mood. Maybe later. In the meantime, here are some reading updates and other bits o' news.....

1. Piglet or Dog?

My dog breeder keeps sending me photos and my daughter is begging me to get this puppy. It's a piebald long-haired miniature doxie that looks like a pig. I want to name her "Wilbur" but Natty doesn't like that one. #pigletdogs4evah

2. On my reading list for this week.....Julia Quinn's A Night Like This, Marley Gibson's Radiate, and an ARC from Annette Blair...Cloaked In Malice. Believe it or not, the blurb for Quinn's book mentions...wait for it....a unicorn! #unicornsforthewin

3. There was a disturbance in the force this weekend. Mary Balogh, author of incredibly beautiful and romantic historical stories, posted on her Facebook page that she loved 50 Shades. #wheresmylightsaber

4. Mr. Tom Andrews wrote a hilarious piece of flash fiction titled "Bile, and more Bile" which has ME as the star. Yes, that's correct. Me and my "rambunctious curls" and a weenie dog, lots and lots of bile, and even a hobo. It's delightful! #bileismyfriend

5. I visited an author website recently that had tons of lovely book covers displayed, but not ONE purchase link in site. All the book covers in the world are worthless unless you have A PURCHASE LINK! And for the tweeter who asked me "How do I do that please?"---here's my answer. If you post the jpeg for the book, add a link with the image and attach the URL for Amazon or wherever you want customers to buy your book. Or, just put the book's title on your book page and add a link with the purchase URL. DON'T FORGET, CHICKIES! #purchaselinksordie

6. My favorite EC cover for the week is....

Close this window

Haaaaaaaaa! Oh my God, this is hilarious. And for the first time in history, I hate a beard. Go figure. #ahoymateys

7. My ranty post has to do with unscrupulous "social media specialists" and indie authors who are trying to game the system. I still haven't decided if I will post this, but in the meantime, here's some advice for writers.....If someone tells you the RIGHT way to self-promote is to spam folks, get shills to write fake reviews for you, down-vote real reader's reviews if they are 1 or 2-stars, offer fake 5-star reviews for your friends if they reciprocate, put fake tags on your books to increase your rank in the search engine, and generally be an incredible nuisance on Twitter/Facebook/all social media, you might want to run as fast as you can in the opposite direction. Because frankly, that advice is King Of Suckage. I'm picturing a used car salesman in polyester wearing a boat-load of bad cologne. Integrity counts, people. Cheating, lying and sneaking your way to the bestseller list ain't gonna work. #sleazytown

8. I would just like to thank my good friend Victoria Morgan for introducing me to the excellence that is Burlesque. Christina Aguilera, hoochie hoochie dances, Cher, and Stanley Tucci. LOVE it! Not only did Christina sound like a million bucks, she looked like a million bucks. She needs to hire her stylist from that movie for every day of her life. #chickflickexcellence



Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Penelope Reads A Ballsy Little Sex Farce

She had me at "well-endowed unicorn."

You all know I have a problem. With wacky book blurbs. It's like a sick, sad addiction, which costs me money and time and occasionally makes me want to stab myself in the eye with a sharp stick. But sometimes, it also makes me think "Hell, this is one ballsy little sex farce."

Let me backtrack....

Once upon a time, I started reading a book blurb, and it said "Honey encounters the hunkalicious Hieney twins, Peter and Dick....." Right off the bat, I'm already hooked. Hieney twins? Peter? And DICK? And the heroine's name is HONEY. I'm screwed. But I'm thinking....NOOOOOO, don't do it...don't do it....

Then I read this... " a sexy well-endowed unicorn." Uh oh. A unicorn. Didn't I swear that I would never never never again buy a book with a unicorn? I did. So, I didn't buy the book.

But I kept thinking about the unicorn. Would Honey actually have sex with a unicorn? Was it a shape-shifter? How would that work exactly?

And then I knew I was lost. It was all the unicorn's fault! So I bought the $2 book, Honeysuckle by Anny Cook. It's actually the second installment of her Flowers of Camelot Series.

Right from the get-go, Cook sets the stage for a totally insane sex farce. This is King Arthur's legend on another planet (really....another planet called Avalon) and the city is called Came-A-Lot (groan!) and all of the characters are insane nymphomaniacs, and there are dragons and unicorns and Robin Hood and flogging and nipple rings and butt plugs and magical islands and.....

Okay. So, it's weird. But the thing is that I have a lot of respect for someone who attempts something this wack. And this is wack. With a capital W. As in Well-Hung Unicorn.

It takes a lot of balls to write something this tongue-in-cheek. And there were a lot of tongues, including long skinny split-fork dragon tongues. And lots of cheeks (butt cheeks). And....

I liked it! So I bought Chrysanthemum (Flowers of Camelot #1) and I liked that one, too.

These books were relatively well-written, packed with double entendres, all kinds of hilarious King Arthur references, pretty steamy sexy time, and even some sweet moments. The plot was all over the place, and often made no sense. But really, who's looking for sense when a giant dragon has kidnapped King Arthur and discovers his mate bathing in a stream, and her name is "Stinky." Well, certainly not me.

The only thing that bothered me was a plethora of inane details, which is one of my pet peeves. Too many details about their plans, what they were eating (a lot of sandwiches) and even copious mentions of potty breaks. I don't care about the characters peeing. At all.

But in spite of all that, the stories were quite entertaining and off-the-charts. And since I appreciate weird stuff, I have a lot of respect for someone attempting a book this ballsy. And frankly, I can't believe that EC published it. This is WAY outside-of-the-box.

Grade: B for the first two installments of the Flowers of Camelot Series by Anny Cook...Chrysanthemum and Honeysuckle.

For anyone looking for a totally nutso interpretation of King Arthur with a bunch of nymphomaniacs, plenty of tongue-in-cheek humor, and a kooky storyline, look no further.

Trying to get back on the "normal" bandwagon,

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Martini Club Welcomes Carolyn Crane, I Mean Annika Martin, I Mean...Oh Never Mind!

I am so excited this wonderful Sunday morning! One of my fav writers is here with us....Carolyn Crane, aka Annika Martin, aka former cocktail waitress, aka Mexican food-lover, aka cat owner. (I get everything but the cat business). Anyhoo, if you're not already confused (I sort of am!), Carolyn has a hilarious handy-dandy drink chart to discuss. Take it away, Car-ika!


Hey!  Happy Martini Club to everybody!

I was so pleased Penny invited me to post on Martini club. I think about drinking a lot. As a former cocktail waitress, I have complex ideas of what people drink, and what characters drink.

Back in my cocktail waitress days, I got really good at guessing what people would order before they ordered it.

Here’s a bit of what I remember from my system of how I would guess what people would order by how they looked:

If they looked like a frat boy -  Corona
Downtown pink collar - house white, Chablis,
Upscale female or bohemian wannabe - red wine
Grunge guys (this was the 90’s) - Leinenkugel beer, no glass. Never a glass!
Refined or mature rocker - Guinness or screwdriver
Rugged - scotch and water
Badass - whiskey up
Upscale badass - scotch up
Cultured urbane male - old scotch like McCallan up
Elegant singles night on the town - martini
Woo-hoo party, preppy, or people who seem like they might be into sailing - Gin & tonic
Hipster - Jagermeister shots, possibly with Leine bottle
Semi- hipster - Kamikaze shots, beer back
Arty mature - white russian, or coffee & kahlua
Suburban sporty - Miller or Miller Lite, with a glass
Laid back, stoner, or dredlocks - Tequila sunrise
Underage or novice - whiskey sour with a cherry
Novice woo-hoo party - obscure name (bellybutton on the beach, etc)

Blue Kamikaze Shots

As you see, it was a cynical system that really reduced people to a type, a box. It even dehumanized them a little bit. There are mean ones I didn’t include on there.

It only occurred to me later that what people drink is more than a pigeonhole you can put them into or a way to name and limit them.

The drinks people choose is more mysterious: one part taste, one part where they’ve been, one part who they are, and one part where they want to go, even aspirational. And you can’t see all that from just a drink and how a person dresses. In other words, drink choices are tied up in a person’s character arc.

People’s dreams and desires, and where they’ve been and where they are headed is a lot more interesting and human. And it’s just more accurate. So that’s how I look at drinks now, a bit of taste preference and a bit of character arc.

I think about that with my characters a lot, that their drinks are that—part where they’ve been and part who they want to be. In the Disillusionists, Packard drinks Ouzo, a drink from a sunny place far away. Ouzo is about freedom for him. In The Hostage Bargain (by my smutty-writing alter ego Annika Martin) my bank robbers drink scotch. They’re badass, but have been thrust into a position where they are forced to be more badass then they are. They are aspirational-badass.


Of course, I was done waiting tables before the explosion of fancy martinis. I don’t know what to think about the Scorpion! Or the Blue Cottontail!! Maybe you guys can enlighten me.

My favorite drink: champagne or, cranberry champagne cocktail

Cranberry Champagne Cocktail

Cranberry champagne cocktail

One part Cranberry juice
two parts sparkling wine

What does it mean to my former cynical cocktail waitress self? What would the Cranberry Champagne cocktail drinker pigeonhole me as? Probably something pathetic. Oh well! 


Cripes! I wonder what Carolyn would have thought of me at the bar? I drink mango martinis....

1. Mango: Tropical, easy-going, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants sort of gal
2. Rum: Party girl!
3. Splash of cranberry: Shout-out to my New England habitat, reference to cranberry bogs

Overall assessment: Quirky Suburban Housefrau Who Still Wears A Tiara At 45

(Carolyn probably would have been thinking....Geez! I hope that weird lady gives me a good tip!)

Super huge thanks to Carolyn for this fun piece today. Also, just in case you're in the mood for an incredibly great UF series, check out her Disillusionist Trilogy, and just in case you're in the mood for a hot, sexy, suspenseful story about a sheep farmer abducted by bank robbers, check out The Hostage Bargain.  

Happy Sloshy Sunday, All Yinz Guys!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Who Knew Baseball Was This Fun?

This has been making the rounds...the 2012 Harvard Baseball team Youtube vid...hee hee! Don't forget to stop by for The Martini Club tomorrow...Carolyn Crane is my illustrious guest, and she has written a hilarious piece! Hope you are having a great holiday weekend so far.


Friday, May 25, 2012

Beard of the Day Special Edition: A Cultural Evolution for Mr. Andrews

There was a bit of discussion following last week's Beard of the Day (a super nice selection of photos of Mr. Scott Speedman, looking rough and rugged and scruffy and ruffy and clearing pining for Penelope) about "cultural evolution." In fact, Mr. Tom Andrews said, and I quote, "I believe in cultural evolution. The tie, the Martini, the pocket square, the close shave, and literary fiction -- for these are pinnacles from which, once attained, one cannot retreat. ;^)"

Mr. Andrews is so eloquent, isn't he?

And wrong. He's also wrong.

Let's discuss.

I agree that a tie, a Martini (I love how Tom has capitalized that...heeee!), a pocket square and literary fiction are all very culturally evolved. But I beg to differ on the beard thing. Case in point (see above)....Gandy in tux. Beard. Pocket square. Bow tie (and I'll bet that isn't even a clip-on!). Culturally evolved smirk on face.

Oh look! Here's Daniel Craig.....

Mr. Craig appears to be sporting a tie, a dapper vest, and a classic martini with two, no I think that's actually three, count them....three! olives. Oh, and a beard. He also appears to be at a culturally evolved event. I don't see any stripper poles.

Hey! Look who's here! Gandy is back.....

Tie? Check.
Pocket Square? Check.
Literary Fiction? Check.
Close Shave? Nope, don't see that one. Too bad.

So, there you have it. From my pinnacle (which is festively crowded with tiaras, weenie dogs and 1980s videos), beards are looking quite spiffy. They're not just for lumberjacks anymore. (Although that's fine, too, of course.)

I would like to say a special thanks to Geekamicus and Tasha for photos and artwork. And a super big thanks to Mr. Andrews, who is an excellent sport and source of inspiration. Whether he likes it or not.

Hope everyone has a culturally evolved, beardy day and a wonderful holiday weekend!


Thursday, May 24, 2012

Funniest Thing I've Seen This Week

I found these letters on tumblr...I reblogged it from The Stocked Bar. I think I might be channeling Frank Sinatra! Heee.....enjoy!

Happy Day!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Dear Penelope

Every week, I get a bizarre mix of totally random questions thrown at me via email, Twitter, Facebook, neighbors, etc. So, I thought I would put together a totally random bunch of Dear Penelope questions and answers. Have at it!


Dear Penelope,
Where did you get your dachshund? How big is she? Can she fit on a plane?

Dear Doxie Lover,
We got Lucy from a breeder in Maine, she is about 9.5 pounds, which makes her a true mini (must be under 10 pounds). Yes, I can squeeze her cute little body into a Sherpa bag for travel, and pop her under the seat in front of me. Totally love the Sherpa is the linkie!


Dear Penelope,
Why don't you use your real name to publish?

Dear Curious,
Thanks to my Filipino hubby, I have a last name that is long, melodious, difficult to spell, difficult to pronounce, and hard to remember. Thus, Penny Watson (who sort of sounds like a British bad girl) was born.


Dear Penelope,
What do you think about this book cover?

Dear OH MY GOD!................
*Penny blushes*

Dear Penelope,
How do I add my own book onto my Goodreads author page the right way?

Dear Author,
Great question! Unfortunately, Goodreads does not offer a good way to do this for authors at the moment. It looks bad to add your own book with a rating and/or review. Just add a new bookshelf titled WROTE IT. Then click on that when you add your book. Do NOT rate it or review it. Just leave it with "0" stars. That's fine. 


Dear Penelope,
What's your best gardening tip?

Dear Mrs. Green Thumbs,
Most important color for the garden is.....*drum roll*.....WHITE! Yes, white. It makes all the other colors pop. Don't skimp on white. A big bunch of marguerite daisies is an awesome addition to any garden.


Dear Penelope,
I was wondering if you would review my book which is published on Amazon. I don't think I have included any of your "dislikes"....I had to google POV, didn't know that one.

Dear Published Author,
*brushes away tears of sadness* POV is point of view, and it's probably a good idea to figure out what that means PRIOR to publishing. Sigh.


Dear Penelope,
Why don't you follow me back on Twitter?

Dear Tweeter,
Did you say hi? Introduce yourself? Or are you just tweet-stalking me, a stranger in the night? Say hello and I'll follow back. Unless you are super naughty, offensive, or naked.


Dear Penelope,
I clicked on a link and found your blog. It was totally delightful perusing your place. 

Dear Nikki,
I love the word "perusing." Thank you very much!


Dear Penelope,
Have you seen this?

Dear Bobbi Baby,

Dear Penelope,
Is it okay to rate/review my friend's book?

Dear Bud,
This is a GREAT question. My short answer....if you sincerely, genuinely loved your pal's book, it's okay to give her a good rating. Don't lie. Longer answer....If you ONLY review your friends' books, and no one else, you look like a shill. If you have a "reciprocal" thing going with other indie authors---you give me 5 stars, and I'll give you 5 stars---then, no, that's not okay. Be honest and fair, don't try to manipulate "the system" (Amazon, Goodreads, etc).


Those are just a smattering of the sorts of questions I get every day from various friends, strangers and probably long-lost relatives. Hope all of you are having a random and entertaining day.

All my best,

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Penelope Channels Miss Manners at The Moody Muses

I gave a workshop called Penelope Channels Miss Manners: How To Promote Yourself Without Peeving Everyone Off at the 2012 NECRWA Spring Conference. It was a rousing success! I wore my tiara and sipped a cocktail while doling out some tips about self-promotion.

The Moody Muses have posted my talk (in two parts) on their blog this week. (Evidently, I am somewhat long-winded....ahem). Yesterday was the first part of the talk, which covered rules of social media, reviews and how to toot your own horn without sounding like a big schmo. PART ONE Please stop by and leave comments, questions, or feel free to heckle me.

And the second part is posted today....I cover damage control, the rule of reciprocity, and how to create a positive image on-line. I also talk about my #1 pet peeve of self-promotion. Loudly. PART TWO

So, check it out if you're worried that you might be acting like a rude jerk, offending folks, or are wondering if it's okay to make up a fake name (Belinda Melinda Carlisle) and post Amazon reviews for your own book (answer: no, it's not okay).

Have a great day!

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Super Special Super-Tastic Six (or Seven)

Last night my daughter arrived home from a playdate clutching her arm and crying. My husband and I took her to the emergency room. While we waited for the x-ray, my daughter chirped on and on with excitement for 2 hours. Here's part of our conversation.....

Natty starts humming a song.

Hubs: What's that?

Nat: A One Direction song. My band sings it at school.

Hubs: Your band? Since when do you have a band?

Nat: I have a band. It's the Super-Tastic Six.

Hubs: Really? What does your band do?

Nat: We have a gig every Friday.

Hubs: (trying hard not to laugh) Uh huh. Where is this gig?

Nat: In the lunchroom.

Me: You perform in front of the whole school?

Nat: No, just for the 3rd grade.

Hubs: Who is in charge of the band?

Nat: I'm the manager. My friend is the assistant manager. And the other girls are interns.

Hubs: Bursts out laughing

Me: Who's in this band?

Nat: So and so, etc......this one girl didn't like our name, so she's out. And then we needed someone else, so this other girl was having a birthday, so then she was in, and then we had an extra, and then we were the Super-Tastic Seven, but then she dropped out, so we were the Super-Tastic Six again.

Me: Do you really sing for everyone? Do they clap?

Nat: Of course!

Me: Where? In front of the lunchroom?

Nat: No, just while we're eating lunch. Until the teachers yell at us and tell us to stop.

Hubs: Hiding behind the door laughing his arse off

Me: O-kay.

Nat: We're gonna be in the talent show next year.

Me: I can't wait!

Several hours later we went home. No broken arm, just a sprain. Nat said "I can't wait until show-and-tell!" She saved her hospital ID bracelet and now has a sling on her arm.

Move over Christina Aguilera, Natty's in the house.


Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Martini Club: Scorpion V Mango Martini, No Contest

Penelope and The Quirky Ladies hit the town on Friday night. Penny's hair was big, her thirst was intense, and the bar was hopping. (Note the bottles in the background...hee hee!)

Two cocktails battled it out on the field for super-alcohol supremacy.

In one corner....The Mango Martini.

Sam Wayland and Penny started with this refreshing beverage. This cocktail was a mixture of mango rum, mango, pineapple, orange and lime juice with a splash of grenadine. It packed a little bit of punch, but seemed more frou-frou than not.

In the other corner...The Scorpion.

Thanks to the recommendation of Tara Truesdale, Penny decided to live dangerously and guzzle this baby down. Holy Canastas! This one included light rum, cointreau, brandy, sweet and sour, pineapple and lime juice with grenadine. The Scorpion meant bid-ness, serious bid-ness, take-no-prisoners bid-ness, I-don't-care-how-big-your-hair-is bid-ness.

Penny was feeling no pain after imbibing this cocktail.

And the winner, in this epic battle o' cocktails was.....


Another excellent "meeting" with the Quirks. We actually talked about books a lot. Seriously. I'm not kidding. Really.

Sloshy Sunday To All!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

RIP Donna Summer!

RIP Donna Summer. I had a hard time picking which song to post today....I really loved all of her music. But this song is a complete gem!

Cause it took so long to bake it! Love you, Donna!

I'll never have that recipe again,

Friday, May 18, 2012

Beard of the Day

This is Scott Speedman, reblogged from tumblr.

Here's what he's thinking in each pic...

1. I wonder what Penelope is doing right now.
2. I hope Penelope likes this wood.
3. I would like to take Penelope for a canoe ride.
4. I can't believe Penelope wrote this amazing book!
5. Dear Penelope......

Have a Beardy Friday!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Review of Castaway Dreams by Darlene Marshall

Castaway Dreams by Darlene Marshall

You know when you're looking for the perfect book to read? Sort of like Goldilocks?

Not too hard, not too soft.....just.....right?

Well, I needed a read that was light, funny, sweet, romantic....not too angsty and intense, not too much graphic, gratuitous sex, but with the perfect amount of emotional satisfaction.

I would have been satisfied with a "B" book. I wasn't asking for much.

But instead, I got a big, whopping A+!!!!!!!

Castaway Dreams is ridiculously adorable and pretty damned close to flawless, in my opinion. It has an excellent storyline, fabulous characters, spot-on humor, plenty of delicious (and tastefully done) sex scenes, lots of wonderful emotional bonding, fun banter and dialogue. 

Just read the first paragraph from yesterday's post, and you'll get a nice glimpse into Marshall's latest book. It is beautifully written, and has two fabulous main characters....a grumpy ship's doctor and a bubble-headed beauty who longs to be useful. Oh dear Lordy! This is the way I LOVE my romance novels. With ROMANCE! And nothing is rushed. Their love story is just perfect and believable, and the humor is fantastic. The last book I read by Marshall was different....also good, but not as light-hearted and funny. I like this twist on her voice better. And I sure hope she writes some more like this one. This book made me swoony!

(I also looked up the word trephining in the dictionary. I learned a new word! Just like Daphne!)

Writing: A
Humor: A
Romance: A
Swoon Meter: A

Overall: A

This book is a delicious gem.

Hoping to find my own grumpy doctor (hey! I have my own grumpy doctor! Excellent!),

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Utterly Charmed

"Alexander Murray spent his lifetime dissecting bodies, trephining skulls, and seeing gray matter splattered across the decks of warships. He knew one could not exist without a brain. Nonetheless, Miss Daphne Farnham appeared to be the living, breathing example of a brainless existence."

Introductory paragraph, Castaway Dreams by Darlene Marshall

I'm at 68% with this book, and I am in love! It is utterly charming, has wonderful characters, a lovely story, and is beautifully written. And I cannot wait to find out what happens at the end.

Bravo, Ms. Marshall!

Review coming soon.....

Wishing I were castaway with Dr. Murray and his white whiskers,

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Timeline of a Dream-Come-True & Other Stuff

For several weeks I've been sitting on some huge news. Not about me. About fellow Quirky Lady Victoria Morgan. She had some HUGE GIGANTIC EXCITING EXPLOSIVE news that I had to keep quiet. It hurt. I had indigestion. I'm not kidding. Well, I can finally blab. So, here's Timeline of a Dream-Come-True (that would be Vicki's dream-come-true).....

(I'm doing this in numerical bulletpoints for Sam Wayland, because she really digs it when I do this in an email....)

1. Vicki writes an amazing historical romance about an earl who is a survivor of the Charge of the Light Brigade. Penny Watson sobs like a little baby while reading it and announces "This is it. It's the one."

2. Vicki says "I think Penny is a wingnut."

3. Vicki submits her WIP to the Golden Heart contest.

4. Vicki forgets she submitted her WIP to the Golden Heart contest. On the day that the nominees are being called, she answers the phone in a rush and is like....."Huh? Oh my God. I forgot about that. I'm a finalist!"

5. Vicki calls the Quirky Ladies who celebrate with copious cocktails.

6. Penny bawls like a baby and reiterates, "I know you think I'm a wingnut, but this is it. It's the one."

7. Vicki does not win the Golden Heart, but she does look smashing in her dress.

8. Vicki gets an agent! Not just any old agent, but Laura Bradford of the Bradford Literary Agency.

9. Penny bawls like a baby. She also drinks some more cocktails with Vicki. (I think. I can't remember that much about that evening).

10. Penny helps Vicki with some edits and continues bawling like a baby every time she reads the story. She's says "This is it. It's the one." It's possible that Vicki might start believing in Penny's prophetic abilities.

11. After many months of edits and revisions, Vicki's agent sends out the manuscript. Vicki gets some rejections.

12. Penny reiterates. "Don't give up hope. This is the one."

13. In a totally nonchalant manner, on the eve of the NECRWA conference, Vicki says to Penny, "Oh yeah. I got a call." Penny says, "So what." Vicki says, "I sold my book." Penny freaks out and bursts into tears. Vicki laughs and says "Oh my God. I didn't even cry." Penny feels sort of like an idiot but continues crying.

14. Vicki says, "You can't tell anyone." Penny, horrified that she has been given this incredible news and is unable to blab about it, says "Sure. No problem." Penny suffers from indigestion.

15. Finally, after torturing her for several weeks, Vicki says, "Okay. You can tell now."


Phew! Holding that in was not easy, let me tell you. Congrats, Vicki! Yee hawwwwww!!!!!!
P.S. The painting at the top of this blog post is one of Vicki's. Not only is she an amazing writer, but she is also a beautiful painter.

Now for the "other stuff"....

I had the first "reading" of my children's book, Lucy The Wonder Weenie. My audience: 2 adults, 1 child, and 3 assorted dogs (a Chinese Crested, a Yorkie and Chihuahua).

I read the story out loud.

2 Adults: Laughed out loud.

1 Child: Smiled. When asked if he liked it, he said, and I quote, "Yes."

3 Dogs: The Chihuahua licked my hand.

Then I showed "The Child" Sara Pulver's illustration. (Sara Pulver is the quirky, talented artist who is doing the illustrations for the book).

1 Child: Huge smile and a huge laugh. When asked if he liked it, he yelled "Yes!"

1 Chihuahua: He licked my hand again.

Story: 5 stars
Illustration 5,000 stars

Overall Rating: #weenieforthewin

(Here is another totally cool painting by Sara....

And in conclusion, Vicki's having a good year. And I predict, with my super powers, that weenie dogs will take over the literary world.

Having a weenie-licious day,

Monday, May 14, 2012

Anyone Want A Chocolate Tomato?

Happy Mother's Day to me! I made out like a bandit. My hubs got me a Nespresso coffee machine. Natty and I shopped like fiends at the plant nursery. And last night I enjoyed white wine sangria at Legal's.

A great day!

I made my annual trek to Russell's Nursery in Wayland to get my window box plants and assorted herbs and veggies. Natty joined me this year for the first time. And she talked me into pink flowers for the window boxes, which is gonna be a new one. Normally I go for blue/yellow/white color scheme, but Natty kept bringing me pretty pink flowers, and I caved.

We also got...

*A Calamondin plant, which my Filipino father-in-law loved. Natty kept bugging me until I bought it with this refrain...."It's cultural, Mom. Work with me, woman!"

* Four kinds of mint....ginger, chocolate, orange and a new one....mojito cocktail mint! Yee haw!

* Kermit eggplant, which is this neat Thai small round eggplant that I love.

* Sugar Baby watermelons for Nat.

* Strawberry plants

* Six pack of assorted cherry tomatoes and one chocolate tomato...can't wait to see how that tastes!

* Apple Scented geraniums....I adore this old-fashioned herb. Also got vanilla-scented heliotrope.

* Honey Bear squash for Natty

* Tons of pink and white annuals for the boxes

I also planted hundreds of morning glory seeds and some sweet pea vines to grow along my fence. If I can just keep the landscaping company from hacking them down, it will look incredible in a couple of months. 

This, write, garden. :^)

Happy Monday to All!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Martini Club Welcomes the Culinary Pirate: Everything's Coming Up Rosé


What better way to celebrate Mother's Day than with a nice glass of Rosé? I am tickled pink (pun intended) to have Katie Machol, The Culinary Pirate, here today to chat about Rosé wines. I met Katie on-line via twitter while ranting and raving about Top Chef. She is a freelance food writer, cooking instructor, and enthusiastic blogger. 

Take it away, Katie!

Everything's Coming up Rosé

     by Katie Machol - CulinaryPirate (@culinarypirate)

As spring is on its way out and the warm summer is about to make its debut, the popularity of Rosé wine rises. Honestly, I can drink the stuff all year and, lucky for me, it's continuing to gain a bigger share of the wine market. Here's an ode to my favorite drink, complete with a few brand suggestions and food pairings.

First, a little back story on Rosé:

Rosé is light, served chilled and goes down very easily and, like white wine, is a bit on the dry side. Reversely, it has a bit more body than a white and typically sports nuances of lush berries on the palate, more like a red. This makes sense, of course, as Rosés are made from red wine grapes: Pinot Noir, Cabernet, Malbec -- the list goes on. Winemakers will leave the skins of the newly crushed grapes in the batch for up to 24 hours to impart a pink to reddish hue before the wine is fermented (a.k.a.: "maceration"). Rosés can be made from a single type of red grape or be a blend of many different types of grapes.

As I mentioned above, Rosés range in color -- from a very light salmon to garnet -- and this coloration also determines the body and flavor of the wine. And I'm a fan of them all. The light-bodied ones are fantastic on their own or can be paired with lighter flavored foods, like fish, salads and some cheeses (nothing too overpowering). Darker, more full-bodied Rosés can hold their own to salmon, meat dishes and some aged cheeses. I'd suggest any of them be paired with spicy Indian and Asian fare, as well as sushi.

Please, don't ever get Rosé and White Zinfandel (or "California Blush") confused -- they should never even be put in the same category. White Zin is sweet, made from only Zinfandel grapes and many of the brands out there tend to be low-quality, which doesn't help its reputation (read: not classy). But no shade to you White Zin drinkers out there, okay?

Alright, enough of the boring facts -- let's get to the goods. Here are some of the stellar Rosés I've had so far this year that I highly recommend:

2011 Bieler Pere et Fils “Sabine” Rosé, Coteaux d’Aix-En-Provence, France $10-12 
This salmon-colored sip from Provence is a blend of Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault and Cabernet Sauvignon. The nose is floral with hints of strawberry and watermelon and, on the palate, red berries and a touch of citrus lead to a crisp finish. It pairs well with fish and chicken (and steamy romance novels). [Note from Penelope: Excellent!]

2011 Charles & Charles Rosé, Columbia Valley, WA $9-11 
I love me some Washington wines and this one -- made with Syrah grapes -- definitely delivers. I'm also a fan of their marketing campaign, the slogan being, "Yes, you can drink Rosé and still be a bad ass." (It's true.) [Note from Penelope: Best slogan ever!] This one smells of watermelon and wet stones (Whaaat? I read that somewhere, not sure if I get that though), tastes like strawberries, raspberries and general bad-assery. It is crisp, vibrant and is great on its own or with grub from the grill.

2011 Francis Ford Coppola Winery Sofia Rosé, Monterey County, California $14-17 
I'll be honest. I was taken in by the sleek and sexy curves of the bottle when I first purchased Sofia, but soon learned that she wasn't just a pretty face with no substance. Named after director Francis Ford Coppola's daughter Sofia (also a writer/director), this gal is a smooth, delicate sip with a perfume of citrus, lavender and pomegranate and tastes of juicy red berries with just a hint of anise. Take Sofia along on a summer picnic and enjoy her with seasonal summer fare and spicy foods.

2011 Mulderbosch Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé, Stellenbosch, South Africa $12-15 
A deep, "sexy pink colour," as their website states, with notes of roses, raspberries and strawberries on the nose, and red berries, pomegranate and black pepper on the palate. Serve with sushi, Japanese fare and seafood. I also find that it goes well when enjoyed with chocolate.

While delicious on its own, Rosé is also delightful when mixed into a cocktail. Here are some creative drinks on the web that utilize Rosé:

The Absolut Ruby Riviera (Absolut Vodka): Grapefruit vodka, Rosé, orange soda
The Black Rose punch ( Blackberries, Rosé, vodka, lime juice, simple syrup
Rosé Berry Bliss punch ( Cocktails): Rosé, blueberries, pink lemonade, lemon-lime soda
Rosé Crush (Cosmopolitan
UK): Crushed ice, Rosé, orange and raspberry juices, mint

So whether you're enjoying a glass while entertaining friends for a summer fête or downing a whole bottle yourself while watching a RuPaul's Drag Race marathon (don't judge), Rosé is the perfect wine pick for spring, summer and just about any occasion.

Katie, you have won me over! I am all set to try one of these recommendations. I think I'll start with the Charles & Charles Rosé since I need to maintain my bad-ass status. 

I hope everyone is enjoying some wonderful beverages on this holiest of holidays...Mother's Day. 

Blushing rosé and sloshing about,

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Happy Early Mother's Day, Old Gray Mare!

Peonies remind me of my mother more than any other flower. We had lots of gorgeous peony shrubs in our backyard when I was growing up. Now I have some in my garden, too.

Since tomorrow is The Martini Club post, I thought I would put this up for my mumsie a day early.

Happy Early Mother's Day, Mom!

Lots of love,

Friday, May 11, 2012

Beard of the Day

This is more like Scruff of the Day, but I'm giving Bruce Willis a little bit of leeway since he's so darned cute. The bald head, the scruffy face, the mischievous expression, great eyes. I really love this guy. He's a guy's guy for sure.

Some weird stuff about Bruce....

1. He was born in West Germany.
2. He worked as a security guard at a nuclear power plant.
3. He once said "Yippee-Ki-Yay Motherfucker" during a live interview. Hee hee!

Happy Beardy Friday,

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Penny Gets Peeved

You know those old cartoons that show someone getting pissed off, and you can hear the sounds of a steam engine, and suddenly steam starts pouring out of the person's ears and nose and mouth until the top of his head flies off?


Well, that was me yesterday due to some unfortunate carpool angst. Which is so asinine, it's not worth getting into. But the interesting thing about this situation is that 1.) Even though I knew I shouldn't, I still wrote a pissy-ass email to all parties involved, and 2.) Even though I thought it over for exactly 3.2 seconds, I still hit the send button, and 3.) I felt no remorse whatsoever, because I was in a somewhat combative mood, and 4.) I waited for the fall-out.

And I waited and waited and waited. And then I got an aborted message email from Comcast. My mail server had been down for an hour, and the pissy email I sent was lost forever.

So, I figured God was trying to tell me something. Don't lose your cool. Don't be an asshole suburban mother-carpool chauffeur. Calm down before shooting off pissy-ass emails. I don't know? Something like that.

In the meantime, I laughed and sent a fairly friendly one-sentence email instead.

Moral of this story?

The kids should take the freakin' bus?

My daughter, who noticed how stressed out I was (the steam pouring out of my head, intense and creative bouts of cussing, and me screaming "I'm stressed out!"), said...."Can't you take a pill for that?"

And I said, "There is a pill for that, but I don't take it. Maybe I should."

And Nat said, "You're a great mom." And then she hugged me and patted me on the back.

And then all was right with the world, and the steam engine rattled away for the night.

Thinking I might need a pill for that,