Sunday, March 31, 2013

Happy Easter!

It's a day for ham and eggs and pancit (our favorite Filipino dish) and "peeps." Yuck! My kids asked for them, so I put them in their Easter baskets, but seriously. Peeps! Ack!

Hope everyone has a great day. It is sunny and gorgeous and spring-y here.


Happy Day,

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

In Praise Of Creativity

I don't watch very much television, but there are a few shows I love. Mostly centering around creative endeavors.

I used to be a huge Project Runway fan. I would actually get chills watching some of the designs walk down the runway. The final collection for Season One's Jay McCarroll was nothing short of phenomenal. Astounding. Creative, exciting. Gorgeous.

It was a kaleidoscope of colors, textures, and designs, which unfolded in a rainbow assortment before our eyes. It was like nothing I'd ever seen before. Unique and bold and brazen.

And I loved it.

The recent seasons have focused more on melodrama with the increasingly boring, tedious, and super annoying contestants, and less on the designs themselves. Which is probably good since the designs have been not only mediocre at best, but actually embarrassingly bad.

At its heyday, Project Runway took amazingly talented designers and gave them superb challenges. Using botanical items to create a runway look. Burlap sacks. And on and on. There is something magical about watching strips of foliage transform into a couture dress. It makes you feel like you are part of the creative process. That we are all capable of greatness. It reaffirms and inspires and cultivates our imaginations.

Top Chef is always popular at our house. Seeing these talented cooks create masterpieces from disparate ingredients and under adverse conditions--using vending machine food, cooking over a fire pit, preparing school lunches for kids using only healthy ingredients--is fabulous. I find the difference between Project Runway and Top Chef fascinating. Project Runway is a visual competition. We at home can see the clothing and make our own assessment of the success or failure of each design. With the food, we have to accept the judges' opinions as to taste and the success in that arena. We can see if the dishes are visually exciting, but ultimately we are depending on the judges' assessment of the food.

Nevertheless, I still find this show super entertaining and inspiring. I especially love the outside-of-the-box approach to cooking, and the self-taught chefs proving their worth. I love seeing how their minds work--looking at the ingredients in different ways. The color, the texture, the taste, how they can modify it, play with it, change it up, be silly or serious or deferential. The sky is the limit with every episode and dish.

And in startling contrast to the cattiness of Project Runway (although there are always exceptions to this), the contestants on this show usually help each other out and support each other. I find that refreshing and inspiring as well.

(The dish below was created by our favorite Sheldon Simeon, Filipino chef and total sweetheart. He posted this photo on his Facebook page. LOVE him!)

Our latest obsession is Face Off, on the Syfy Channel. My 10 year old daughter and I have been faithfully watching this season, and the hard work, creativity, technical achievements, and sheer imagination going into these designs are beyond impressive. You watch clay and plastic and paint and hair and fabric transform an ordinary model into something extraordinary, horrifying, alien, fantastical. And more than any other show we've seen, the camaraderie between the contestants on this show was heart-warming. They cheered for each other. They were kind to each other. They supported each other. This is the best possible world for folks involved in a creative field---they have mentors, friends, the proper tools and inspiration, and folks looking out for them and encouraging them. Bravo to SyFy for showing us this side of creativity, and what amazing results you can get from a positive experience.

Anthony Kosar's Finale Design
Photo from SyFy website, by Brett-Patrick Jenkins
(Photo at top of post is also from Face Off)

Does this mean all the designs are successful? Of course not. Some are failures. But the stories and people I find most fascinating are the ones who are crushed by the judges, get back up the next week, brush off their pants, and get back to work. They believe in themselves, their vision, and their talent.

This is also why I find fiction that pushes the envelope exciting and impressive. Instead of following the mold, dishing out the same old stuff, there are authors willing to take a chance. Add a cat's POV into the narrative. Create a hero with quirky flaws, outside of the same old formula. Mix up the structure of the novel. Challenge the reader.

Bravo to the authors willing to take a risk, try something different, create a bold new world.

And hopefully you'll find a posse of friends who support you, help you, encourage you, and spur on that creativity.

Hoping everyone has a bold and inspiring day,

Monday, March 25, 2013

Dogs That Talk And Other Stuff

1. Easter is coming up! Natty and I spent yesterday working on three dozen eggs for our baskets. My husband's eye was twitching because we made such a huge mess. But we had a great time.

If you're looking for something sweet and silly and different for your kids' Easter baskets this year, why not order a copy of LUCY THE WONDER WEENIE? You could add a small plush weenie dog, too, just for fun!

2. As you all know, I love ridiculous movies. Somehow I missed the sheer excellence that is HOT TUB TIME MACHINE, starring John Cusack and assorted other hilarious actors. Dear Lord! It was utterly fabulous, set in the 1980s, and chock full of delicious gems like this...(my favorite quote)...

"I write Stargate fan fiction. I think I know what I'm talking about."

Penelope Highly Recommends watching this movie if you have fond memories of the 80s, like John Cusack, asinine humor, and lots of cocktails. A winner!

3. First I read a book with a cat's POV (The Girl With The Cat Tattoo by Theresa Weir). Then, I read a book with a dog's POV---The Love Dog by Elsa Watson. The premise for this novel is really cute. A tabloid reporter goes undercover on a reality TV show that features a "love dog" who brings together fractured couples. The suspense portion of this story was high...the entire time you're worried that Samantha's cover will be blown. Watson did a good job wrapping up this difficult conflict at the end.

I'm not gonna lie. My favorite character, by far, was the dog Apollo. He was super sweet, loving, and adorable, and I was stressed out thinking he would not get his HEA. (I was more worried about Apollo and his HEA than the human characters in the story). Well, the ending was PERFECTION! True love and happiness for all, human and canine alike. I do think the H/h of this book took a back seat to the dog and his quest to make people happy. But the magic of this story was the dog, and getting his charming POV added the pop into this book.

Grade: B+

I think I am now addicted to books with animals' POVs and must find more!

All righty folks...time for another exciting Monday! Hope y'all have a great week.


Thursday, March 21, 2013

Two Out Of Three Ain't Bad

I read three self-pubbed books in the last couple of days.

Two were fabulous, one was not. Let's start with the good news!

1. Edge by Tiffinie Helmer

I almost DNFed this book at the first chapter. It starts with a disturbing scene with a poor girl who has been abducted by a religious fanatic. However, I stuck with it because I trusted Tiffinie to do right by this story. And she did. Edge is a fabulous romantic suspense--the perfect balance of suspenseful storyline, engaging romance, interesting secondary characters, and incredible setting--the Alaskan wilderness. I felt like I was breathing in the frigid cold air right along with the characters. The setting popped off the page, and it was the ideal backdrop for this story. The writing was smooth and professional, the material handled perfectly. And that's a big deal for me. Too many writers add unnecessary graphic detail when dealing with difficult subject matter like abduction, rape, etc. A lot of times it feels gimmicky to me--like a crappy horror movie throwing in guts and violence for the hell of it. Helmer handles Mel's past with a light touch...we get just enough information to know that she was traumatized, but not enough to detract from her strength and healing. Cache, the hero, is a fantastic character, flawed, also tortured by his past, and the ultimate mate for Mel. I loved the two of them together, I loved the resolution to the story, and I loved how Helmer tackled prickly family issues and a secondary love story, too. And we even get a bad-ass bear scene. Awesome!

Grade: A-

2. Penelope by Anya Wylde

Also self-published, Penelope is an adorable historical farce. The humor is way over the top...there is a highway robber, a goat, a cross-dressing spy, a hilarious uncle with a mustache obsession, and a sweet, lonely heroine who is longing for love, companionship, and friendship. Penelope is adorable, goofy, and good-hearted. Folks looking for what I like to call "reality-based fiction" will probably not like this one. You need to check your willing suspension of disbelief at the door, and then laugh yourself silly while you read. I was charmed. There was one formatting error (with the indents) that hopefully will be fixed soon, and the hero was a little bit too conflicted for a good portion of the book. But other than that, there are many sweet and funny scenes that are a testament to Anya Wylde's imagination and sense of humor. I love a good farce, and this one fits the bill.

Grade: B+/A-

3. Spanked by the Vet by Christa Wick

I love big, curvy girl erotica stories. I love heroes who are veterinarians. I love quickies that are satisfying and sexy. And I love a good spanky story (so sue me).

Well, this erotica had a big curvy heroine and a veterinarian hero. It also had a good premise--the whole friends to lovers thing. Unfortunately, it also had no ending, no real story, about 95% sex, and the sex was boring--I ended up skimming those scenes. All in all, not my cuppa spanky tea. This story had a lot of potential, but it just didn't work for me.

Grade: Penelope Is A Sad Panda

Coming up on the reading horizon...

The Love Dog by Elsa Watson...I won it from Books and Things. After reading a book recently with a cat's POV, I'm looking forward to this one--it has a POV from the golden retriever. Hee hee!

Enjoying the self-pubbed revolution,

Wednesday, March 20, 2013


I have two winners who will be receiving FOR THE LOVE OF A SOLDIER by Victoria Morgan...

Congrats to FALLEN STAR and WATCH4BIRDS! I will send both of you emails and you can let me know if you would like an ebook or print book (if you live in the US).

Thanks so much to everyone who entered the give-away!

Also, Julia Rachel Barrett has an interesting post today about what "indie" means...stop by and leave a comment.

I will have reviews up soon for three books I read this week. 1 dud, 2 winners!

All my best,

Monday, March 18, 2013

Sweet Freedom!

I finally finished camp applications, tax forms, and a whole bunch of other stuff that has been hanging over my head for weeks!


I also had a fantastic time at the Maine RWA meeting this past weekend. What a great group of women writers. We talked about how to use reviews for good instead of e-villlllll! And I got a big surprise. Steph from Fangs, Wands and Fairydust was there, too. We finally met in person and she was a terrific help at the meeting.

If any New Englanders are looking for a writer's retreat this spring, MERWA is hosting their annual retreat May 17-18 at the Embassy Suites in Portland, Maine. Sounds really fun. Here's the linkie!

To celebrate my new-found freedom, I downloaded some festive new books.

* Spanked by the Vet by Christa Wick
* Edge by Tiffinie Helmer
* Penelope by Anya Wylde

So, I have a spanky book, an Alaskan romance, and a kooky historical. Can't wait!

Other good news...

Eloisa James gave LUCY THE WONDER WEENIE a nice shout-out on her Facebook page this weekend. She also has an adorable rescue doxie named Lucy.

LUCY THE WONDER WEENIE is on sale at both Barnes and Noble and Amazon for only $7.65. And it's still just 99 cents for the Kindle version!

Finally, I realized my hectic pace this year has resulted in stress-induced shingles and throwing out my back--twice! So I decided to slow down. I'm going to work on SWEET ADVENTURE, the next Klaus Brothers book which isn't due until Christmas 2013. That gives me plenty of time to get it written, edited, formatted, covered, and ready for action! I can't believe I'm saying this, but I actually sort of miss the Klaus family and I'm looking forward to writing about the North Pole again. Even though it's March and Starbucks no longer has their gingerbread lattes.

NOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!! *Penny cries*

Hope that everyone has a happy week!

Friday, March 15, 2013

A Couple of Grovels and A Kicky-Ass Cat

I have three quickie reviews for you today. Two are "grovel" books and one is a terrific quirky story that includes a cat's POV.

I'm going to rush through the grovels, which I saw recommended on an Amazon thread, because they weren't stellar.

1. The Billionaire's Pregnant Mistress by Lucy Monroe


(Mistress gets pregnant, Greek dude promises dying grandfather he will marry some Greek chick and dumps mistress, mistress runs away, Greek dude realizes he's a big schmo and grovels for the rest of the book, yada yada yada, HEA).


2. Forgiveness by Allyson Young

Meh and an eye roll.

(Woman involved with two men gets set up as a corporate spy, two horny dudes who love to "take care of their woman" get duped and have meaningless sex with her, which breaks her little heart, and she runs away, horny dudes realize they were wrong and that they're big stupid schmoes, they find her, kidnap her, grovel, grovel, grovel, she hates them hates them hates them, they finally give up, she shows up at their house and they have an HEA).

Eye roll.

3. Now for the good one! If I could, I would give The Girl With The Cat Tattoo by Theresa Weir....

5000 STARS!

But I can't. (At least not on Goodreads). So, I gave it 5 stars. This book is freakin' adorable. It's quirky, cute, funny, romantic, even has a cool suspense storyline. The funky cat has a POV and does a moon walk. The heroine dresses up like Pippi Longstocking for story time at the library. The hero is the perfect alpha-beta mix of hot undercover cop and volunteer at the homeless shelter. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? All he needs is a Paul Bunyan beard and he is perfect, baby! (I just pretended he had a beard while I was reading the book!)

Anyhoo, huge thanks to Brie from Romance Around The Corner for recommending this book to me. And another huge thanks to Nico Jaye for loaning it to me. It is now FREE on Amazon for Kindle!

After reading two formulaic grovel books, this book was a breath of fresh quirky air, low on the angst, high on the fun, silly, and adorable. It was so right up my alley, I was laughing out loud while I read it.

I loved it.

And I don't even like cats.

If you're looking for something different this weekend to read, I HIGHLY recommend this gem of a book.


Grade: 5000 stars


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Best Compliment of the Decade

Best compliment ever, from bud Sam Wayland....

"In a sea of ladies wearing cardigans and pearls, you're Diane Keaton flinging F-bombs."

Works for me!

Have a great quirky, funky, different, march-to-your-own-tune, rebellious day!


Sunday, March 10, 2013

Sunshine + Gray Clouds

Stuff that makes me happy...

1. The new Star Trek trailer -- PUNCH IT, BABY!

2. I'm speaking at the Maine RWA meeting on Saturday! Yippeeeeee! I hope to see some of you there. I love Maine and I'm really looking forward to a nice weekend away.

3. This dress by Oscar De La is so romantic, it's ridiculous.

4. My daughter's comment, after watching Oz, Great and Powerful...

"Just for once I'd like the bad guys to win."

5. Junior Mints.

Stuff that makes me sad...

1. Stories about people abusing dogs.

2. This outfit...

3. Cold, snowy, windy, blizzard-y, icy, hideous weather in March when I'm ready for this...

4. The realization that something that used to be a positive and wonderful part of my life is now a source of stress and negativity. And that I have to cut it out of my life like a chunk of moldy cheese.

5. Hoarders. That show is like a train wreck you can't stop watching until you're curled up in the fetal position.

So, this week is going to be about focusing on a sunny, positive future, and eliminating the gray clouds.

All my best,
Perky Penelope

Friday, March 8, 2013

Do Not Look Out The Window

...unless you want to see a snowstorm.


Instead, let's close our eyes and pretend we're about to sit down on one of these chairs, and drink this delicious beverage...

In a pineapple! With one of those fun little paper umbrellas! Yes!

And this dude is our waiter...

And he's our own personal cabana boy. Yes! And we're staying in one of these cool beach houses over the water...

And this is our sunset...



Thursday, March 7, 2013

Penny Vs. Decapitated Barbie Head: I'm Putting My Money On Barbie

For some God-forsaken reason, my daughter loves Decapitated Barbie.

That's what I call those huge Barbie heads that were created to practice styling hair, putting on make-up, or perhaps act as a stand-in imaginary friend for sad little girls.

I stupidly purchased Decapitated Barbie for the first time when she was about four years old. After she and her posse of girlfriends were finished with that thing, it looked like Chuckie (see photo below)...

...another disturbing doll, had done unspeakable things to Decapitated Barbie Head that involved Sharpie markers, sharp objects, glitter, and some pink nail polish.

Decapitated Barbie Head was dumped, unceremoniously, into the garbage can.

A few hours later, she showed up on the dining room table.

Undeterred, I tried again. Decapitated Barbie Head was dumped in the trash bin in the garage.

The next day, I found her on the stairs.

OK. So I was perhaps slightly discombobulated by seeing Barbie's glittery eyes staring at me from the stairway.

I covered her with a rag and put her in a trash can hidden in the far corner of the garage.

By dinnertime, Decapitated Barbie mocked me from the kitchen counter.

It was full-on war, and I was determined to win this battle.

On garbage day, I waited until the truck pulled up in front of my house, and hand-delivered Decapitated Barbie to the garbage men. Her hair had been hacked and was standing up like an electrocution victim. Her face was covered with Sharpie doodles. I don't think Ken would have been too keen to go out on a date with this Barbie.

The garbage men, God bless their souls, raised an eyebrow and chucked Decapitated Barbie into their truck.


One month later, as Natalie opened her birthday gifts, I stared horrified at not one, not two, but FOUR Decapitated Barbie heads. Without my knowledge, she had asked all of her friends to get her Decapitated Barbie Head as a birthday gift.

(Yes, my daughter is diabolical if you haven't figured that out yet).

And so the battle continues to this day. Decapitated Barbie Head taunts me. I attempt to dispose of her. And lo and behold, she turns up in the laundry basket. (See photo above I took this morning).

I concede defeat.

Decapitated Barbie Head has kicked my sorry ass.

Some exciting news and updates...

Some great reviews for LUCY THE WONDER WEENIE!

❀ From Tales of Whimsy: "The art is pure whimsy...The story is equally clever and whimsical...Lucy is one fab pooch and I look forward to her future adventures. 5 STARS"

❀ From Darlene Marshall: "The illustrations are dynamic and vibrant, and the story by Nina Clark captures the essence of diva dachshunds."

❀ From Pearls Cast Before A McPig: " is an awesome book...the story is cute, touching and funny and the illustrations not only fit the story very well, they're really beautiful in my opinion."

❀ From Babbling About Books: "How can you not want to read about an adorable doxie who becomes a super weenie dog with special powers? Also the illustrations are wonderful!"

❀ From Pam Smallcomb, author of EARTH TO CLUNK: "Lucy (a licking-obsessed wiener dog diva) is sure to tickle the funny bones of young kids and wiener dog-lovers of all ages. The bright, charmingly wacky illustrations build the perfect world for a wiener dog with a newly-found superpower."

❀ From BookHounds: "...absolutely loved it...This should be on any dog lover's book shelf."

ALSO, BookHounds loved LUCY so much, they are offering a give-away! So please stop by to enter the contest. Here is the link...


LUCY THE WONDER WEENIE is now available in paperback and digital formats!

Have a great day! (Even Decapitated Barbie Head)

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Review and GIVE-AWAY: For The Love Of A Soldier by Victoria Morgan

Review and Give-Away: For The Love of a Soldier by Victoria Morgan

In my experience reading historical romance, they fall into three categories. One is the "wallpaper" historical, which is not concerned with fact or accuracy. The time period is merely to establish some texture in the storyline. The second type pays more attention to detail--the clothing, language, and setting have been researched, the historical backdrop is part of the fabric of the novel. The third type is most interesting to me, since I started reading historical fiction as a young girl. The history is integral to the book. The characters are real and imagined, intertwined within the narrative. History comes alive. We go back in time and get to experience something outside of our own personal reality.

I love them all. Silly historicals like Noble Intentions by Katie MacAlister, elegant and refined novels such as Stephanie Laurens's books and those by Mary Balogh. And every once in a while we get something extraordinary. Something that teaches us about a different time period, but at the same time satisfies our craving for romance and happy endings.

For The Love of a Soldier manages to do it all. This book is an absolute gem. Morgan's story has combined complex characters, a satisfying love story, and a fascinating examination of the Battle of Balaclava and its devastating consequences for the soldiers who survived. Many historical romances have heroes who have been traumatized by war, but usually the reality of battle is glossed over and sacrificed for a romantic storyline. Not in this case. Morgan makes the stark horror of the war very real--by the post traumatic stress experienced by her hero and by the crippled soldiers who return home to poverty.

There is a stunning scene in this story that made me cry repeatedly. The hero finally confides to the heroine about his experience with the battle made famous by the Tennyson poem The Charge of the Light Brigade. It is emotional, horrifying, and cleansing for Garrett. Alex handles the moment perfectly, and it becomes a turning point for Garrett's healing. Bravo to Victoria Morgan for bringing this fascinating bit of history to life, and seamlessly weaving it into her storyline.

But there is more than history here. There is charming and sexy banter. There are wonderful secondary characters who are clamoring for a story. There are laugh-out-loud funny moments to balance the serious tone in other sections. The mystery propels the plot along, but it is not the primary focus of this book. The primary focus is the characters and their believable love story. I fell madly in love with Garrett. Quite simply, he is a good man. A thoughtful man. A man who does the right thing by his friends, the soldiers who counted on him, by a stranger who has lost everything in a card game. And eventually, the woman he loves.

Alexandra is also a true hero. She is loyal to those who have earned her trust. And she reaches out to this man, despite his bad reputation, because she believes in her heart it's the right thing to do.

And the icing on the historical romance cake is that this novel is beautifully and intelligently written. Morgan's voice is perfect for this genre. She has just the right balance of history, romance, and intelligent prose.

If I had to choose one area to nitpick, I would say that the love scenes were a bit too long. I like them short and sweet, but that's just me.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough for those who love romances that weave real history with a satisfying love story and a blissful HEA. For The Love of a Soldier is a remarkable debut novel.

Grade: A-


Victoria Morgan is not only a fabulous writer, a talented artist, a GOLDEN HEART nominee, a world-wide traveler, a voracious reader, and an intrepid skier, she is also a horrible cook, a hilarious friend, and one of my critique partners. I was lucky enough to read this book as it was created, and I knew right away that Vicki had written something really special. Evidently, the RWA judges for the Golden Heart agreed with me, and so did her agent and Berkley. And I know that readers will love this beautiful story, too! (By the way, to see some of Vicki's awesome art work, check out her website and blog).

To celebrate Vicki's debut release day, I'm giving away 2 free copies of FOR THE LOVE OF A SOLDIER (print or ebook for US entries, and ebooks for international winners). Contest is open until March 12. Just leave a comment WITH YOUR EMAIL so I can contact you if you win.


All my best,

Sunday, March 3, 2013

I Am So Hip And Happening! LUCY Goes Digital, Baby!

Suffice it to say, I am not the most technologically advanced person on the face of the earth.

Case in point, when I have a computer question, I ask my ten year old daughter who generously helps me out with my problem, although she does roll her eyes.

Anyhow, I knew my new kiddy book LUCY THE WONDER WEENIE would be released in print, but it took my hubby to convince me that families and children are now eagerly reading books on Kindle and iPads and other color tablets, and that it would be a nifty idea to publish my book in that format, too.

And so I did.

Thanks to the formatting master-mind Jayne, LUCY THE WONDER WEENIE is now available as a full-color ebook for Kindle. Jayne BLEW MY MIND with this ebook. It is banana nut crunch cray cray fabulous. I am not kidding!

Also, I am only charging 99 cents right now!

So, in conclusion, if you own a Kindle Fire or other color tablet and you would like to read this "crazy cute" story (from Carolyn Crane's Amazon review)....check out LUCY THE WONDER WEENIE in digital format!

Have a weenie-licious day!