Monday, July 29, 2013

Alaska Heart, Tulle Death Do Us Part, and Plotting Chart

Sam Wayland's Bag Of Doom, aka THE MARKERS

Monday morning updates: Alaska Heart, Tulle Death Do Us Part, and Plotting Chart ( an extra bonus, A Work Of Art).

1. ALASKA HEART by Christine DePetrillo

This book is just chock full of my favorite things! A sexy, rugged, outdoorsy hero, who happens to be the Iditarod-winner and have eighteen gorgeous sled-dogs. A breath-taking Alaskan setting. Adorable secondary characters. Laugh-out-loud banter. A suspenseful storyline that takes us on a hair-raising plane trip and chase through the wilderness. The hero was a bit too good-to-be-true, but honestly, I sort of like my heroes like that. He was delicious! (And had some nice scruff going on, too). Finished up with a lovely HEA.


Grade: A-/B+

2.  TULLE DEATH DO US PART by Annette Blair

I have been a bit frustrated with this series after the last couple of books. But the latest installment was absolute perfection! Blair has combined a compelling mystery, her trademark quirky writing voice and snappy dialogue, fun vintage clothing details, and totally satisfying romance. Oh! The romance! Not only did Maddie embark on a wonderful love story (finally, long overdue and she deserved it), but some other secondary characters also found their HEAs, too. One paranormal, one firmly on earth. And the fact that Maddie's deceased mother blessed all the happiness (with the sweet scent of chocolate) brought a tear to my eye. This book is WONDERFUL!

Grade: A+


3. Plotting Chart (aka Penny's Frightening Experience With A Master Plotter)

For those of you not familiar with writing approaches, let me briefly describe the two types of writers:

1. Plotters

2. Pantsers

Plotters are super organized, plot out their entire book in advance of writing it, and know exactly what is going on. I would hazard a guess that they also are extremely good at recycling, fold their underwear, and pay bills on time.

Plotter and Proud Of It!

Pantsers are authors who write by-the-seat-of-our-pants. Which means we do NOT plot the book. We have no idea what's going on. We sit down, and start banging away at the keys, and let our muse take us away! Pantsers probably plan their kids' birthday party an hour before the guests arrive, don't pack for vacation until the morning of the flight, and enjoy cocktails with silly names and umbrellas stuck in them.

I'm Pantsing, Baby! Woo hoo!

Okay. You get the idea. Needless to say, I'm a pantser. Sometimes this works out great. And sometimes, it doesn't. (I once attempted a werewolf story where I wrote myself into a corner and couldn't get out. At 50,000 words. And no amount of hairy werewolf sex could fix that problem. Ugh.)

It was with great trepidation that I finally asked my critique partner Samantha Wayland to help me with my plotting. There are "plotters" and then...there is Sam. Sam has 20,000 colored markers. Sam has 3'x4' poster boards. Sam knows what is happening at the beginning, quarter, mid-point, three quarter, and end of the book. Sam writes outlines that are 20,000 words long. The outline, people! The outline! My books aren't even that long. (*Penny takes short break to inhale oxygen canister*)

As you can plainly see, this appointment with Sam caused me undue stress. However, I personally know many people who have met with her and swore it was the best thing that ever happened to them.

So, I pulled on my big-boy pants and met with Sam. And HER BAG. (See photo above.) Do you see all those markers? DO YOU SEE THEM? She has different colors for the hero, heroine, 2ndary characters, the conflict, the black moment. You name it, she has a marker.

Our conversation started like this:

Sam: Tell me about your hero.

Penny: (eyes markers with great suspicion) Huh?

Sam: Your hero. What's up with him. (She holds marker in her hand, waiting to write something on the massive poster board).


Sam: Good! He's lonely. (she starts scribbling on THE BOARD).

Penny: (thinks silently....SHE IS KILLING ME!)

This went on for about an hour. And something funny happened.

It worked.

There. I said it. ARE YOU HAPPY, SAM?

I figured out some cool stuff about my hero, my heroine, my story, how to structure it so it flows right, and a totally killer ending.

And so I would just like to say....


Penny turned to the Dark Side...Plotting! And I don't even need therapy. (Although I do still have an unnatural fear of markers).

4. And finally, the bonus...A Work Of Art!

Remember how I told you my husband got me a cool diamond ring in Santa Fe right before I fled the high altitude vacation disaster? Well, I got it! My new pinkie it fabulous or what? (The one next  to it is a garnet).

So, those are my Monday Morning updates. Hope everyone has a great week! Julia Rachel Barrett is visiting me midnight! Like Cinderella! I can't wait to see her!


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Books On The Horizon!

On my TBR pile...

1. ALASKA HEART by Christine DePetrillo

This one is set in Alaska, has a sexy Iditarod winner, and sled dogs. I can't wait to read it!

2. TULLE DEATH DO US PART by Annette Blair

I love Annette's Vintage Magic Mystery series--it combines fun vintage clothes, paranormal storylines, and a sexy love triangle. I was VERY upset in the last book when Maddie rejected my fav guy, Werner, and I'm hoping she gives him another chance in this book. TEAM WERNER!

3. HOW THE LIGHT GETS IN by Louise Penny

To say that I have been eagerly awaiting the next installment of the Inspector Gamache series by Penny doesn't quite capture the ANTICIPATION I have for this book. I inhaled the whole series months ago, and realized that the author was finishing up this book. So I waited. And I waited. And on August 27, I will finally find out what happens to Gamache and his daughter and his crew of friends. CANNOT WAIT!

4. HEAD OVER HIGH HEELS by Jessica Patrick

This book sounds like the perfect summer models, Miami's South Beach, parties, pageants, and fashion. Husband-and-wife writing team Patrick Burns and Marley Gibson have started a new endeavor as Jessica Patrick.

Not only does Marley inspire me daily on Facebook with her photos and observations about life in Key West (SO JEALOUS!), she also has a business making zombie dolls! I got my daughter Natalie a couple of these adorable Dagnabit Dolls, and she loves them. Here's the website...Dagnabit Dolls.


I pre-ordered this book already; it's coming out Oct 1st from Samhain. This sounds like a sexy paranormal story, with a werewolf heroine and vampire hero. I have been friends with Roxy on-line for a long time, and I am super excited for her to publish her debut novel this fall. WAY TO GO, ROXY!

Hope everyone is having a great week and not melting in the heat. We are consuming large quantities of ice-cream products. :^)


Monday, July 22, 2013

Summer Reading Recommdendations


I have been thinking about the whole concept of "summer reading"...basically, it's supposed to be mindless stuff you can read on the beach, under an umbrella, while sipping a cold frosty drink.

Now THAT'S what I'm talking about!

Then I realized that summer reading is all about the ANTI-ANGST. Nothing too heavy, too disturbing, too conflicted. In fact, it occurred to me that I love summer reading ALL YEAR LONG. Since I love quirky, funny, light-hearted stuff. My regular reading list is pretty much "summer reading"...I know, I'm shallow. I can live with that.

So, I decided to put together a summer reading recommendation list. Some fun, light books I've read recently and not so recently.


1. CASTAWAY DREAMS by Darlene Marshall

Light, sweet, romantic, adorable. And the hero and heroine are castaways on an island. PERFECT SUMMER READ! Historical romance.

2. PENELOPE by Anya Wylde

Over-the-top farce, charming and fun. Loved it! Historical romance.

3. SWEETENED WITH A KISS by Lexxi Callahan

This has some of the sexiest push-and-pull chemistry between a hero and heroine I've ever read. Also throws in an unexpected suspenseful storyline, which is another thing I really like with my summer reading. HOT! I read it TWICE over vacation I liked it so much. Contemporary romance with suspense.


I read a lot of mysteries over the summer. And this one combined some of my favorite history, Rome, and a sexy romance. Charming! This is a short, entertaining read that will really appeal to folks in love with all things Italian and art history. Romantic mystery.

5. SPOTTED OVERCOAT by Denise Janikowski-Krewal

Poetry in the summer? Sure! I like mixing it up. Here's a snippet from "Sassy Siren of Kalamazoo"...

Lean sophistication
In her rouged lips
Flim-flam, fur fancier
Dropped waist
Flimsy tail
Beaded swinging lariat
Cooing at the Model-T followers
Slithering out of her
Bent Duesenberg
Floozy doozy

I really enjoyed this debut book of poetry by Denise. Poetry.

6. AIRE by Lena Goldfinch

Lush, lovely, romantic YA fantasy. You can never have too many HEAs in your summer reading list. YA.

7. BURN by Scarlett Parrish

From my Goodreads review:

Wow. This is not your typical erotica writer. Scarlett has major writing chops, excellent character insight, fast-paced, humorous dialogue, intelligent details, and sweat-inducing sex scenes. I am freakin' impressed. And not only did I manage to read M/M in spite of my vanilla-self, I enjoyed it.

Quick read, extremely well-written. M/M erotica.

(As an aside: I have been on a Scarlett Parrish reading bender, since I discovered her incredible writing voice, unexpected prose, and highly original love scenes. I would call her writing a hybrid literary fiction/erotica.)


I heartily enjoyed the whole series, with lots of historical melodrama and romance. If you have a week on the beach somewhere, you should download the bundle, and read them all in order. Fun! Historical romance.

9. THE AMELIA PEABODY SERIES by Elizabeth Peters

Amber at Buried By Books reminded me how totally awesome this series is! She is doing a Summer Re-Read of the whole series. These books are bloody brilliant. Larger-than-life characters, romance, suspense, Egyptology, mystery. They have it all. HIGHLY RECOMMEND.

Coming up later this week: More books that look intriguing, fun, and addictive!

Hope everyone is enjoying the lazy days of summer.


Thursday, July 18, 2013

Lobster Roll For The Win!

Front of Black Point Inn

Maybe it was the salty sea breeze. Or the view of the ocean. Or the hike on the Cliff Walk. Or the lobster roll.

Whatever it was, it worked like a charm. My trip to the Black Point Inn was relaxing, productive, and inspiring. I wrote a ton, got a good feel for the whole story, hung out with some of my bestest buds, and managed to consume a ridiculous amount of seafood (crab cakes, clam chowder, grilled shrimp, lobster roll, fish chowder, and salmon....and of course wine and cocktails!). I ate so much seafood I think I turned into a mermaid.

It's like looking in a mirror!

Cosmo for the win!

Flowers at Black Point Inn

Front view of the inn

Cliff Walk, Black Point Inn

Cliff Walk, Black Point Inn

Here's a sneak peek at my manuscript. Warning: This is NOT your typical romance novel. But it IS a love story. A different kind of love story. 


"We're weeding all right. Bastard weeds. You ever seen stinging nettle?"


"How about jimson weed?"

"No, I get dandelions."

"Dandelions. For Christ sakes, those aren't weeds. They're food. They're edible. I'm talking about bastard mother fucking weeds. Plants that try to kill you, poison you, shoot you with chemicals. This garden isn't some pansy-ass annual border with mari-fuckin-golds. This is war. I've got weeds that try to strangle the other plants. I've got poison ivy that will send you to the ER. We're at Defcon One. Got it?"

Tom's face was so close, Bev could see every wrinkle around his eyes, every black and white whisker on his cheeks, a scar on his chin. She nodded. "Got it."


Dreaming of a cottage by the sea,

Monday, July 15, 2013

Writer's Retreat For One, Please

Well, my husband is back to work. My daughter is off to sleep-away camp. My son is long-boarding every day with his friends.

Which leaves me with a whole week to write.

Peace and quiet.


So, hubby suggests "Why don't you head up to the Black Point Inn for a writer's retreat?" (Black Point Inn is a charming hotel in Scarborough, Maine).

And I said, "Huh. That is a crazy fabulous idea. I could relax, go on some hikes, enjoy the ocean, work on my book, and have cocktails with my girlfriends."

I dialed the hotel so fast my phone caught on fire.

Anyhoo, this is probably my Nirvana-On-Earth. The Black Point Inn is absolutely lovely and the perfect setting to write.

And best of all, it's sea level!

Hope everyone has a great week. I am off for peace, quiet, and hopefully a nicely chilled sangria.

All my best,

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Day #4: It Was The Best Of Times, It Was The Worst Of Times (DESCEND!)

Cristian In Cavate, Bandelier

Our last full day in Santa Fe...

I was determined that my kids would get some sort of awesome cultural experience, and appreciate the geography of New Mexico. So, we headed to Bandelier National Monument. It has super cool ancient Pueblo cliff-houses, called cavates, that were carved out of the soft volcanic ash. The kids were able to climb up the ladders and peak inside. We also saw the remains of ancient common houses and other ruins.

Ruins At Bandelier

Cool Rock Formation (Volcanic Ash)

Nat In Cavate

Pink "Swiss Cheese" Rock is Compacted Volcanic Ash

The drive to Bandelier from Santa Fe is gorgeous, although my heights-fearing husband wasn't too thrilled as the bus drove on the edge of the canyon. Hee hee! (I think I saw his eyes roll back in his head a couple of times). Otherwise, this was the perfect outing for our family.

Except for one, small, wee little problem.

I couldn't breathe.

I could no longer ignore the fact that I was not acclimating to the new altitude, but instead my breathing was getting worse. I managed to climb up to the first set of cavates, but after that I had to head back to the bottom of the trail. I was wheezing and couldn't catch my breath.

My husband was extremely worried, but I kept insisting I would be okay. It was a tough climb.

The rest of our day was fabulous. We had a really fun dinner out with the kids, my husband got me a gorgeous diamond ring! (woo hoo!), and everything would have been peachy-keen if only I could breathe.

It was close to midnight, we all had our pajamas on and were getting ready for bed. My husband was on the iPad researching "high altitude sickness" and "pulmonary edema" and lots of other fun things. Our hotel had canisters of oxygen sitting on the mini-bar (I'm not kidding), so I was sucking that stuff down like it was going out of style.

Hubs jumps up from the bed and announces, "We're leaving."

(I'm in my PJs with a toothbrush hanging out my mouth). "Wah?"

"Now. We are leaving Santa Fe now."




"There are only two ways to fix this problem. Oxygen and descent. We have to descend to a lower elevation. Your breathing is getting worse. This is not okay."

"Can't it wait until morning?"

"No. Now."

The kids shrugged and started chucking their clothes into their bags.

I felt like I was a climber in the Himalayas, forced to turn back before I had an unfortunate run-in with Yeti.

We packed in five minutes, checked out of the hotel (which was very understanding--I got the feeling this was a common problem with tourists), and took off for Albuquerque, which is about 2000 feet lower in elevation. I didn't believe my husband when he told me that would help. But by God, it did. Within one hour of driving, we arrived in Albuquerque, and I was already breathing much better.


The next day we went to the ER, then headed to the airport to return to Boston. SEA LEVEL OR BUST, BABY!

So, that's my sad and sorry story about summer vacation. At least we got 1/2 week in Santa Fe before my lungs crapped out. And...we did have some fun. And...I did get a diamond ring (yay!).

Needless to say, I don't think I'll be doing this anytime soon...

Sea level does have its advantages...

Breathing is fun,

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Day #3: Hummingbirds for the Win, High Altitude Sickness for the Loss

Anna's Hummingbird, Santa Fe

After a rocky start to our vacation in Santa Fe, I was determined that Day #3 would be a success!


✯The Loretto Chapel, which was right next door to our hotel. It's lovely!✯

The Loretto Chapel

The "Miraculous" Staircase at Loretto

There is a sweet story about this unique spiral staircase. Supposedly when the chapel was built in 1878, they decided that a ladder would be the only way to get to the upper story. The sisters of the chapel prayed for a solution to this problem, and a stranger showed up on a donkey and said he could help. He built this gorgeous staircase and disappeared, taking no payment for his work. The sisters believed that it was St. Joseph himself who answered their prayers. Here is a link with more information about this cool story.

Natty lit candles for all of our pet "angels"...she is such a sweetheart!

✯Amazing plants, including this blooming Santolina in front of our hotel✯

✯The Davey Audubon Center. Only one trail was still open due to the fire hazard, but we had a really nice hike with the kids✯

Blooming cactus at Davey Audubon Center

Gorgeous vista at the Audubon Center


 They were whizzing around the trail. It was the coolest thing ever! We even had a mama bird dive-bomb us to protect her hidden nest. I am a big hummingbird-lover, so I was totally enchanted with this.

✯Shopping with Natty!✯

My daughter LOVES to shop. Let me say that again. LOVES LOVES LOVES! She is hilarious. We snuck off and left the boys in the room, and had a super fun mother-daughter shopping extravaganza, including cute hats, clothes and jewelry. Yay!


Incredible Sunset!


And now for the lowlight. UGH! It never occurred to me that we would have any trouble with the elevation in Santa Fe. Of course, we are from Boston (sea level) and Santa Fe is 7000 feet above sea level. Cristian got a headache the first day, and Carl got a bit queasy. I had a cough that I'd been dealing with for months, so I didn't notice right away that anything was wrong. My cough started to get worse, and soon I was having trouble breathing. However, I decided that once I acclimated to the new elevation, I would be okay.

Oops. Maybe not.

Coming up...Day #4: DESCEND! DESCEND! DESCEND!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Day #2 Of Vacation: Where's The Beach? (aka, Those Damned Kids)

Day #2 of Vacation:

My hubby is an obsessive fly-fisherman. On our first day of vacation he got up at the crack of dawn and went fishing with a guide. The kids and I were exhausted after our hellacious misadventure in the airport, so we all slept in.

Finally, I forced the kids to wake up so we could start exploring Santa Fe! I adore this sweet, charming town. It has everything a girl could ever want...gorgeous vistas, shopping, amazing museums, art galleries.

Wait. Wait. I know what you're thinking.

That doesn't really sound like a "kiddy-friendly"vacation spot.

OK, fair enough. But I made sure there would be a pool at our hotel for the kids. And...we were going white-water rafting. And, visiting pueblos. And stuff like that.

Wrench in Best Laid Plans...

1. There was a huge drought going on, and major fire-hazard at all parks, so no rafting, and many trails closed.

2. The pool was lovely, but smallish and surrounded by 70 year olds. (My kids kept saying "Um, has anyone noticed EVERYONE AT OUR HOTEL IS AN OLD PERSON?")

3. Our last major vacation was to a crazy incredible hotel in HAWAII. We had something like 14 pools at the of them had a lagoon with kayaks in it. Needless to say, anything after that place was going to come up short. Ugh.

4. I'm an idiot.

Celebrity Death Match Between Hawaii....

Our Resort In Hawaii

and Santa Fe.....

Loretto Chapel, Santa Fe

Hawaii wins by a landslide! (Did I already say I'm an idiot?)

Anyhoo, I am still perky and optimistic! The kids will love this, I keep telling myself. We go out for breakfast and everything on the menu has chilies on it. The eggs have chilies. The pancakes have blue corn in them. My 15-year old son tries something new, God bless him! My daughter insists on plain eggs and bacon, which the restaurant kindly accommodates.

And then, this conversation...

Daughter: Where's the beach?

Me: Silence.

Daughter: I want to build a sand castle.

Son: We're in the middle of the desert, dumb-ass!

Me: Don't call your sister a dumb-ass. (To my daughter: Honey, we're in the middle of a desert).

Daughter: What do you mean? We always go to the beach for our summer vacation! Where's the beach?

Son: (snickers) Well, there is sand.

Me: Honey, why don't you Google Santa Fe and look at a map. We are not on the coast. But there are a lot of fun things to do here...

Daughter: (Googles the map) I miss Hawaii! Why didn't we go to Hawaii! That was my favorite place!

Son: Hawaii was awesome.

Me: (wondering if I could get a Bloody Mary instead of a coffee for breakfast)...We are trying something different. Seeing a new part of the country. You will love it!

After finishing breakfast, we meander around Santa Fe. We pass by the Loretto Chapel, which I adore. Peek into some shops. Look at the Central Square.

By the time we get home, we are all hot and sweaty and the kids are irked, and I am thinking about flinging their little bodies off the balcony.

I believe I may have used the expression "SUCK IT UP!" at one point while they were complaining.

Also, we just happened to be passing a construction worker as I said this, and he laughed and said "Kids. Gotta love 'em."

We get back to the hotel, and I suggest the kids go for a swim. We look at the pool (which was very sweet) and notice that the median age of swimmers appears to be 87. The kids take a pass.

It occurs to me that I may have made a critical error in judgment when I booked this vacation.

I'm screwed.

Next Up: Day #3: Hummingbirds for the Win! High Altitude Sickness for the Loss!

Monday, July 8, 2013

The Best Laid Plans

Canyon Road, Santa Fe

I'm back! Actually, I'm back early from Santa Fe. Our trip did not go according to plan (haaaaaaa!!!! surprise surprise). Here is a quick run-down of our aborted vacation week.

Travel Day #1: Wake up at 5 am to get to Boston airport. Should arrive in Santa Fe by noon-ish so we have time to hang out and enjoy our first day of vacation. Get to Denver, CO and sprint through the airport to make our connection. Notice that our flight to Santa Fe is nowhere on the departures board. Get a bit nervous. Arrive at the GREAT LAKES AIRLINES ticket counter and discover that the flight does not exist. No, it wasn't "cancelled" it was just removed from existence. Panting, sweating from exertion, my family stood at the counter and said "Um, maybe you should have told us that BEFORE TODAY." Ticket dude: Looks at us blankly and offers NOT ONE WORD OF APOLOGY OR HELP. Hubby gets angry. Smoke starts pouring out of his ears and he looks like he is about to lean across the counter and teach ticket dude a lesson.

Hubby At Ticket Counter

I calmly push hubby back and say "We paid for a ticket from your airline which no longer exists. What now?" He says "We have a flight tomorrow." Not only does counter dude not apologize for our inconvenience, he actually gets rude to us as we try to figure out alternative travel plans. Did I mention this horrible airline was...

GREAT LAKES AIRLINE...horrible, rude, awful service, incredible inconvenience. Highly NOT recommended. HIGHLY!

We realize that there is another flight to Santa Fe from United, which was RIGHT NEXT TO OUR OLD GATE--that leaves in 15 minutes. Which involves another sprint back through the airport to our old location. (You can stop laughing now). We get there and find out (surprise surprise) they do not have four available seats. But they do have another flight to Santa Fe that leaves eight hours later. An incredibly kind, wonderful and understanding customer service person from UNITED got us meal vouchers, boarding passes with seats together, and was super friendly and awesome.

So, we hung out for EIGHT hours in the Denver, CO airport, finally made a connection, drove to our hotel and arrived close to midnight.

But the story is not over yet.

Exhausted, rumpled, and irked that we lost one day of vacation, I drag myself up to the check-in counter at the hotel. I had booked a 2-bedroom suite months and months in advance.

Me: Hi! I booked a 2-BR suite.

Hotel Lady: Oh, we did renovations and that suite does not exist anymore.

Me: Haaaaaaaaa!!!!!!! (hysterical laughter) That's a good one. Here is my confirmation email I just received THIS WEEK confirming my 2-BR suite (hand hotel lady a copy of my email).

Hotel Lady: (sadly shakes her head) I'm so sorry my manager did not contact you and let you know that suite no longer exists. We did renovations and it's gone.

Me: (babbling incoherently, voice cracking, eyes tearing up)....But, but, you JUST SENT ME THAT EMAIL! THIS WEEK!

[An aside: What the hell is up with the whole NO LONGER EXISTS thing? NO LONGER EXISTS? The plane? The hotel room? Is there a rip in the time-space continuum?]

Me Talking With Hotel Lady

Hubby: Pushes me aside and says "Let me deal with this." (It's important to note that when hubby is freaking out, I am calm, and vice versa.)

Hotel Lady: Since we no longer have a 2-BR suite, you can have these 2 rooms right next door to each other. They are NOT adjoining rooms, but they're right next door.

Now. Let me just say this. Let's suppose that my kids were 3 and 5 years old. The hotel didn't know how old they were. Would that be okay? To put my kids in a SEPARATE ROOM, NOT ADJOINING, BY THEMSELVES, IN A HOTEL? The answer is no, it would not. However, my kids are 10 and 15, so at that point I really had no choice but to agree to these new accommodations.

Hubby convinces me to calm down and that everything will be okay. We go up to our hotel room and discover that the two rooms actually ARE ADJOINING. Why hotel lady did not realize this, I have no idea. I was very relieved.

After hiding the mini-bar candies from my daughter, I passed out and slept like a log.


Happy to be home,