Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Move Over Martha: Penny Makes A Wreath

Penny's past jobs include...

A. Assistant dolphin trainer
B. Turfgrass researcher
C. Biology teacher
D. Lacrosse coach
E. Florist
F. All of the above

Correct answer: F! 

I actually went to floral design school and worked as a florist before I started my own business. After 2 hand surgeries, I hung up my floral shears, but I still like to play around with flowers whenever I can.

Here's something I whipped up using only materials from my own garden. Plant materials include hydrangeas, cherry branches, ornamental grasses, ninebark, and inkberry.

Here's what I did...

1. Soak Oasis foam in water.

2. Collect plants from your garden and condition them. Just give them a fresh cut and plop them in water to hydrate.

3. Slice up the Oasis into thin pieces and place on top of a willow branch wreath. (You can get these at craft shops).

4. Tape foam onto wreath base. If you have green floral tape, that's the best. I used scotch tape.

5. Start by adding foliage and berries onto base. Try to use different colors, textures and sizes. I used inkberry branches, ninebark, berries from my cherry tree, and the seed heads from fountain grass.

6. Add the flowers. I used white and blue hydrangeas. They can be picked apart into smaller clusters. Be sure to fresh cut the bottoms so they are easy to fit into the Oasis foam.

7. I attached a piece of raffia at the top to hang the wreath. Spritz with a water-mister to keep it fresh.

It looks fabulous! Martha, eat your heart out. ;^)

Happy Tuesday!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Golden Girl

Yesterday our town of Needham, Massachusetts had a parade and rally for Aly Raisman, Golden Girl of the Olympic games. Here is Aly riding along with all of her medals around her neck...

She's adorable! Everyone is so proud of her and the American gymnasts.

It was crazy crowded for the event. Natty and I watched from on top of a wall.

This made me tear up a bit. Past olympians and paralympians from Needham ride the trolley.

Congrats, Aly!

Hope everyone has a golden, winning day,

Friday, August 24, 2012

One Man's Trash

I've read a lot of books.

I've read mysteries, horror, history, turfgrass manuals, Russian novels, French novels, scientific journals and textbooks, literary fiction, comic books, biographies, poetry, and as a teen--YA. I've read the bible. I've read thrillers. I've read autobiographies. I've read non-fiction.

And of course I've read romance.

Some of these books were excellent. And some were not. Some were thoughtful. Some were marshmallow fluff. Some were exceedingly dark and disturbing. And some were uplifting, powerful, and inspiring.

But never once, as I worked my way through this incredibly diverse mix of reading materials, did I think "This is trash."

Romance novels are a lot things. They are about love and hope and lust and longing. They make us cry--tears of loss, tears of joy. They reaffirm our beliefs in happy endings.

There is nothing remotely trash-like in these themes. I can't think of anything more important or universal than love, pure and simple. And that's what romance novels are about. Doesn't matter if you're gay or straight or young or old. Kinky or vanilla. Whatever.

Love is not trash.

I find it fascinating that books which contain themes of love and sex are considered "trashy novels" while books with gruesome and horrific crimes, violence, and murder are fine and dandy. It makes no sense to me.

I sincerely hope the next time I hear the term "trash" it's a book about recycling and the environment.

Because it has no place in my genre. At all.

Proud, card-carrying member of the Romance Brigade, God bless my optimistic soul,

Monday, August 20, 2012

A Bleary-Eyed Monday Morning Update

American Bald Eagle at VINS

Yes, this is a deja vu post. I went back to Vermont. Hee hee! My husband and kids were jealous I went last weekend with my mother, so we all went this time. We added a couple of extra fun outings...including VINS (Vermont Institute of Natural Science) to see the raptors. My favorites were the snowy owl and great grey owl. The kids loved this American Eagle--he's missing half of a wing... :^(

We also made it to FH Gillingham and Sons General Store in Woodstock, VT. It's an incredible old-timey general store (been around since 1886) that has an eclectic mix of stuff--from toys to wine to kitchen wares to a hilarious selection of beers from around the world. 

Gillinghams in Woodstock, VT

Super quickie reading update:

I read Seducing Cinderella by Gina Maxwell, which was a cute, sexy erotic story I would definitely recommend. I gave it 4 stars.

I also read More Than One Night by Sarah Mayberry which I LOVED. Gave it 5 stars. It's a terrific Harly about an unplanned pregnancy (of course!) but it's not your average, generic Harly. The story was surprisingly sweet and emotional and genuine. I may have teared up at the end, but since there's no photographic evidence, I'll never admit it!

Next up: Recommended on the Ami boards, Still Life by Louise Penny is supposed to be a fabulous mystery/romance, and I can't wait to start this series. Folks were gushing about how great it is.

Two and a half weeks until school starts. ACK! My to-do list is cray cray, so regular blogging will still be on hiatus until the fall.

Hope everyone has a wonderful week,

Friday, August 17, 2012

Shout-Out to 3Crows

Peace Offering by Sara Pulver

I wanted to give a nice shout-out today to Sara Pulver, the wonderful artist who is doing the illustrations for Lucy The Wonder Weenie. Her artwork is quirky, sweet, and puts a new twist on the way we see the world around us. She has a lovely Etsy shop with paintings, prints and cards for sale. Stop by and check out her adorable artwork.

Sara and I are collaborating on a children's book, and every day she sends me a new painting which is bringing this story to life. Many days I cry when I see her paintings. They are so sweet and whimsical and funny and true. Yesterday she sent me a painting of Lucy the Weenie Dog embracing a little girl, and I realized the devotion we get from our pets is the equivalent of a huge hug of unconditional love. That is the perfect symbol of a pet's love for us.

Thank you, Sara, for all your hard work and inspired vision!

For those of you interested in our book, I am hoping it will be released sometime this fall.

Hope you all have a happy Friday, a wonderful weekend, and get lots of hugs and kisses from your furry friends!

All my best,

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

What's Free Today?

1. A smile.

2. Some insults from Penelope...."Oh my God! Your butt looks HUGE in those pants!"

3. A really cute looking book by Lindsay Kiernan called Reluctantly In Love.

Here's the adorable cover.....

Here's the blurb! Sounds great....

Beatrice Clark has run out of options...

She must escape her dangerous fiancé by ruining her reputation before the wedding can occur. Armed with a sultry red dress and a list of London's disreputable men Beatrice has one night to find the right man.

William Bradley enjoyed his nights of debauchery and found himself at home amongst London's depraved citizens. He never wanted to be the hero to any damsel in distress. But his past is working against him. Forced by his own conscience into helping Beatrice escape her future husband he is now tied into the unwanted role of a woman's savior.

The unlikely pair could fall in love, if they don't destroy each other first.


Here's the linkie to Amazon. It's FREE! (Did I mention that it's free?)

I haven't had a chance to read this one yet, but it looks really sweet. Way to go, Lindsay!

Hope everyone has a smiling, insulting and excellent-reading day,

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

I Left My Heart In White River Junction, Vermont

I know. That doesn't sound as romantic as "I Left My Heart In San Francisco" but nevertheless, that is where my heart lies.

I lived in Vermont for 5 years. Five wonderful years. Vermont and I are like chocolate and peanut butter. Like martinis and olives. Like Hugh Jackman and beards.

I love Vermont.


Here's a run-down of some stuff I did with my mom this past weekend.....

1. On the way up to Hanover, my mom and I stopped at Peter Christian's Tavern for lunch. It's an adorable spot in New London. Many moons ago, I was a teacher at Proctor Academy which is down the road in Andover, NH. I fell in love with New London. It is a sweet and charming town. Love it!

2. Mom and I arrived at the Hanover Inn in Hanover, NH (where Dartmouth College is located). The inn just had a huge renovation and was looking very modern inside, in spite of its still traditional facade. Folks like to hang out in the rockers and check out the Dartmouth Green. It's a lovely hotel.

Super cute mom!

3. Next up: King Arthur Flour! This is an amazing spot in Norwich, VT which houses a cafe, huge kitchen where you can take classes, and a wonderful shop. It's a cook's dream-come-true. My mom and I did some serious damage at this store. Yeeee hawwww! :^)

4. On the way back to the hotel, we stopped at my very favorite general store in all of the universe....Dan and Whit's in Norwich, Vermont. Their logo is "If we don't have it, you don't need it." Hee hee! And this is crazy true. This store has EVERYTHING. It is insane. And awesome. And I miss it like crazy. :^(

5. In a pouring rainstorm, Mom and I headed over to Simon Pearce Restaurant for dinner. We got the premiere spot looking over the waterfall. Sweet! Unfortunately, the covered bridge is still under repairs after the horrible flooding problem they had this past spring. But Mom and I enjoyed sipping our glasses of wine while watching the beautiful falls.

6. The next morning we got a quick breakfast at King Arthur Cafe, and then headed over to my favorite shopping extravaganza EVER! The Quechee Gorge Antique Mall. OH MY GOD! Two stories of millions of antiques. Millions! Ga-zillions! IT IS FABULOUS! Glassware, old tools, linens, toys, jewelry, china. Holy Macarena. I could spend 15 straight hours in there and it just wouldn't be enough. One of my collections is antique planters: I have McCoy, Majolica, and lots of others. On this trip I found a S. Ballard Vermont planter, McCoy bulb dish which is very cool, another nice green pot, and a lovely Crown Staffordshire China basket-weave dish with sweet flowers on it. 


And then it was time to return home. Oh, Vermont, how I miss you! BOO HOO HOO!

I have a lot of stuff to do this week. Edits on Lumberjack--it's almost ready for publication. Yikes! And Natty is doing a 1980s dance number at camp on Thursday--to Madonna's Get Into The Groove. That should be....interesting. (I'll take pics!)

Hope everyone has a great week, 

(To order a tote bag, T-shirt or bumper sticker with the cute logo at the top of this post--The Greenest Place on Earth--head over to the Vermont Clothing Company!)

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Mom's Coming To Town!

My mom is on her way to Boston! So, I'll be out of commish (hee hee) until next week.

This photo was taken by my sister. My mother had just informed me and my sis that she had never had a cup of coffee in a "disposable" cup with a plastic lid. (This was said with the utmost disdain). My sister and I proceeded to make fun of her for at least 15 minutes. She refused to drink from the plastic lid and removed it. We all chuckled.

I'm sad my sister is in China and can't join us for this girls' weekend get-together. We are heading up to New Hampshire and staying at the new and improved Hanover Inn, and then going to my favorite restaurant in all of the universe---Simon Pearce. And shopping at King Arthur, Dan and Whit's, and all of our other fav spots.

Hope everyone has a great week and weekend!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Dear Penelope

It's that time again! Time for another rousing installment of....


Dear Penelope,

Hi! I am an insecure writer who needs constant validation. I'm thinking about leaving hostile and combative comments on every poor review I receive. What do you think about that, Miss Prim-And-Proper?


Dear Newb,

I think if you want to brand yourself as an insecure, unprofessional author, this is an excellent way to do it. Knock yourself out.

Prim-And-Proper Penelope

Dear Penelope,

All of my friends are reading 50 Shades and are trying out BDSM for fun. I am not really interested in being someone's slave and having nipple clamps attached to my chest. Am I hopelessly old-fashioned?

Missionary Style Works For Me

Dear Missionary,

You are the epitome of unhip.

Call Me Master,

Dear Penelope,

I need some sparkle in my life. What do you suggest?

Dull and Listless

Dear Dull and Listless,

Try this fabulous nail polish. It's my new favorite! It's Sally Hansen's Gem Crush in "Big Money"....

Dear Penelope,

How is your garden doing this year?

Lime Green Thumb

Dear Lime Green,

Thanks for asking! My veggie garden has been over-taken by man-eating weeds, but the morning glory patch is doing great. I have a crazy collection....blue, purple, pink, lavender, and then some funky ones that are streaked with different colors on the inside. Check out these photos..... (Click on them to enlarge!)

Dear Penelope,

Have you been watching the Olympics? What's your favorite event?

Glued To My Set

Dear Glue,

I love the womens' gymnastics the best. I adore this photo of Gabby Douglas....so inspirational!

Dear Penelope,

What book release are you most looking forward to?

A Reader

Dear Reader,

I cannot wait for Eloisa James' The Ugly Duchess, coming out at the end of August. It looks amazing!


Dear Penelope,

Will you be attending any conferences this year? Are you doing any book-signings?

A Fan-Tastic

Dear Fantastic,

I am attending the NJRWA in October. I won't be at the book-signing, just schmoozing and...well, probably more schmoozing. I will also be at the NECRWA Conference this spring, and I will be signing all my books....Sweet Inspiration (which will be out in print for the first time), Sweet Magik, and hopefully Lucy the Wonder Weenie. I haven't decided if I will release Lumberjack in Love as a print book yet. Check back for that info.


Dear Penelope,

What do you think about R Patz and K Stew breaking up?


Dear Concerned, 

Is that some sort of new Jewish soup? Huh?


Dear Penelope,

What do you think about the latest Goodreads ruckus?

A Ruckus-Amuckus

Dear Ruckus,

Oh dear. Well, here we go.

1. If you create a social media site for readers, then it should be for readers.

2. If you change your mind and decide, "Hey! We could make some $$ by selling our site as a great promotional opportunity for authors. Let's do that!" you will probably piss off the readers.

3. When the readers get pissed that they are being bombarded by spammy authors, authors leaving snarky comments on their snarky reviews, and eventually being threatened all over the internet, it appears there might be a wee little problem with the "readers" site.

4. When you decide to "hide" certain reviews (that could be unfavorable to authors), you are no longer a reader social media site. You are now a tool for authors.

5. You can't be both. Pick one.

6. Message boards have moderators for a reason. If you choose not to moderate your reviews/comments section, and allow lawlessness to prevail (that makes Lord of the Flies look like a f*ckin' fashion show), then your site is no longer appealing to readers, authors, or aliens from Mars. NO ONE WANTS TO GO THERE.

7. Which is bad.

8. And then they'll probably go back to the Amazon romance message boards, where Amazon responds quickly and fairly to abuse complaints from both sides.

9. And then hell freezes over.

10. And then Penelope wonders what happened to the place where real readers could just hang out and chat about books? Instead of authors, reviewers, agents, editors, and publicists. Regular Joe Schmo Readers.

Wondering where it all went so very, very wrong,

Dear Penelope,

Who is your favorite bearded guy right now?

I Love Hairy

Dear I Love Hairy, Too,

Right now I am totally digging Zach Galifianakis from The Hangover. He was by far the funniest part of that movie, and his beard is fab. LOVE it!

And thus concludes our Dear Penelope column for today. If anyone has any other pressing questions, concerns, observations, fantasies, dreams, or awesome beardy dudes for me to check out, let me know.


Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The LOOK Challenge

Thanks to Stephanie Berget for tagging me in the LOOK Challenge. The rules of this challenge are as follows....

1. Do a search in your current WIP for the word "look."

2. Include text before and after.

3. Tag some other authors to join in the challenge.

I am currently working on SWEET ADVENTURE, Klaus Brothers Series #3. It's the story of Sven Klaus, son of Santa Claus and chief toy designer/wood-worker in the North Pole, and Andi de Luca, a tabloid reporter known as "The Pit Bull." It's a match made in romance heaven...hee hee! Here's a little snippet from the first chapter. Enjoy!


Casey Wyatt
Samantha Wayland
Victoria Morgan
Lindsay Kiernan
Liberty Blake


             "Whoa. You sure clean up good. Who knew? It's hard to tell under those baggy overalls you usually wear." Harry Croft stared at Andi with lust in his eyes.
            "Give it a rest, Harry. It's just a dress." Andi perused the gadgets on the table while Harry perused her ass. "This one's too big. I need a really small, discreet tracking device that Sven Klaus will never notice."
            Harry reached over and grabbed a box. "This here's what you want. A totally customizable web-based system. It's tiny, uses GPS to determine location within fifteen feet, is water resistant, and has five days of rechargeable battery power. It's perfect. You can sneak it into a briefcase. He'll never notice it." He rubbed a weary hand over his five o'clock shadow and pursed his lips. "Never seen your hair down before. It looks like silk."
            Andi cringed as his big, beefy hand reached out to stroke her hair. She tilted her head away and leveled him with a glare. "No touchy, touchy, Harry. I spent hours getting ready for this shin dig. I don't want you messing me up."
            Harry's eyebrows shot up. "You wanna get together afterward? Maybe have a beer or something?"
            Andi rolled her eyes. "Aren't you forgetting something, Harry?"
            "What's that?"
            "Your wife."
            He sighed, a long drawn-out affair that only men married for twenty plus years could do. "Oh yeah, Glenda. Forgot."
            Andi placed the tracker in her handbag. If all went well, she'd be able to sneak it into Sven Klaus' belongings tonight. One way or another, she would discover where the toy workshop was located. Her antenna were way, way up concerning Klaus Enterprises.
            There were too many unanswered questions about the family business. Every lead she followed had turned into a dead-end. No one knew where the factories were located, who they employed, or what kind of delivery system they utilized. Maybe they were using illegal child labor? Were violating EPA regulations? Perhaps Klaus Enterprises was a money laundering front for a drug cartel? Who the hell knew, but something was definitely going on, and she was going to be the reporter who broke the damned story.
            Andi De Luca wasn't good at a lot of things, especially girly stuff. She didn't know how to style her hair, couldn't knit worth a damn, and sucked at decorating. But one thing she was good at was sniffing out a story. She could tell when the politicians were lying (most of the time), ferret out the white-collar cheats, and zero in on celebrity cover-ups. And sure as the uncontested perfection of Uncle Gino's flat-bread pizza was her certainty that Klaus Enterprises was hiding something big.
            Sure, The Scoop was a rag...so what. She'd never win a "Pulitzer" for her work. But her stories kept the tabloid selling like hotcakes. Folks just had to know if bigfoot was for real, and who the latest starlet was boinking to get the plum roles. There wasn't any place for pride in the world of tabloid journalism. Andi had left her pride on a rookie's entry-level desk a long time ago.
            She glanced over her shoulder at Harry who was back to staring at her ass. "And five kids. Don't forget about them."

Thanks for including me in the challenge, Stephanie!

Happy Day to All!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Review of I've Been Deader by Adam Sifre

Review of I've Been Deader by Adam Sifre

One of my biggest pet peeves EVER is when I see a movie preview, and it looks cute and funny--a comedy--and then I go to the movie and it is depressing as sh*t and I want to fling myself off a bridge. Not cool. If your movie is depressing or intense or heavy or serious, the preview should not look like a comedy. That is false advertising.

Yeah, I know why people do this. To get folks to go see the freakin' movie. If folks thought the film was so depressing that they would curl up in the fetal position, no one would go. But I feel duped when that happens.

OK, now onto what is probably the strangest book I will read all year, and one that I am very conflicted about. It's I've Been Deader by Adam Sifre. The book blurb makes it look like a zombie romance/comedy. Here's the blurb...

Being a zombie is no picnic and it's one hell of a handicap in the romance department when you fall in love with a 'breather': Aleta is a breather with short blonde hair and brown eyes - two of them! - and the whitest smile Fred has ever seen. Every day at a certain time she sits at her window, and every day he stands in the rubble across the street among a crowd of zombies waiting to break through the fence and eat her. 'You are beautiful, like an angel', he thinks, but all he can moan is, “Braaaiiinss." Still, as zombies go, Fred's quite a catch. Underneath all the gangrene and rot, Fred is different. This girl will probably turn out to be yet another dead end, an infatuation, someone whose image he cannot get out of his mind and whose taste he cannot get out of his mouth, but the heart wants what the heart wants. For breathers, it is always only a matter of time, however beautiful they are and whatever the government is assuring people. Which makes Fred sad because he has a beautiful 11 year old son called Timmy, and Timmy may still be alive.

This book was recommended on the Amazon boards (I realized later that it was the indie author himself rec'ing his own book). It was 99 cents. And I LOVE funny zombie stuff. I've seen several other so-called "zombie-romance-comedy" series, and I thought I would give this one a go. Here are my assorted observations about this book....

1. This is by far one of the best-written indie books I've ever read. Except for one minor head-hopping issue early in the book, it is incredibly well-written. No typos, no grammatical errors, and pitch-perfect writing. I'm impressed with Sifre's grasp of craft--this book reads like it's been written by a well-seasoned author. 

2. The beginning of this book is bloody brilliant. It is crisp, snappy, funny. The pacing is perfect. There are a million hilarious one-liners. As many of you know, I am a huge fan of Shaun of the Dead. There is nothing better than blending comedy and horror when it's done right. When it's done right, it's the balls. And the beginning of this book was A+ all....the.....way.

3. Sigh. And then something happened. Sifre started throwing in a lot of POVs. I'm fine with that. I was getting a very strong Stephen King vibe. Very similar to The Stand, one of my favorite books. I love how SK has a ton of unconnected POVs at the beginning, and as the story threads come together, the reader gets to see how these seemingly unrelated characters and events are connected.

The pseudo-romance is actually nothing, and over with before it begins. Right at the beginning of the book. But the storyline in I've Been Deader is very engaging, and I couldn't wait to find out what happens.

That is until Sifre switched this book from comedy to horror. If you're going to blend 2 genres, you gotta blend them. The beginning was perfect. But once he left the humor behind and jumped totally into Stephen King grotesque/touching on paranormal/drug-addled, ultra violent, disturbing, with nary a bit of humor in sight, he lost me. I didn't sign up for that. I signed up for cute, funny, quirky.

Funny thing is, the horror part is also very good. If the book had maintained some consistency either way--either a funny horror bit, or a straight-up grotesque horror novel--it would have been great. But these 2 genres were not blended, they just switched half-way through the book.

I made it to about 80% through, and then I DNFed it. I no longer cared what happened to any of the freakin' characters.

4. So, I'm not sure I can actually rate this book. Based on the writing, the success of the comedy at the beginning and the success of the horror portion--separate from the rest of the novel--I would give it an "A" or 5 stars. But unfortunately, the huge disconnect between the beginning of this story and then second half, as well as the misleading book blurb, would give it a failing grade. 

This is definitely a book with an identity crisis. But I am extremely impressed with Sifre's writing. He is very talented and I would try another one of his books. 

5. The cover is so disgusting, I didn't feel right about posting it here. If you would like to see it (preferably BEFORE eating), here's the linkie.

Grade: DNF

Jonesing for Shaun of the Dead,