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Friday, March 30, 2012

Wuv...True Wuv. It's What Brings Us Together Today....

Oh, Gentle Reader, I’m in looooove.

The man I love is amusing, intelligent and devastatingly handsome, but he has a terrible problem. He is a selfish rake who thinks the world owes him something.(Specifically, something with long legs and sassy red hair.)

I’m in love with the Marquis of Dutton.

When I read the very first novel, The Courtesan’s Daughter, in Claudia Dain’s The Courtesan’sChronicles, I thought, “Hmm. Well, he’s trouble, but I think…yes, I think I like him.” As I continued to read the novels, five in total, I grew to like him more and more. The odd thing is, he becomes progressively more horrid,dissolute and bastardy (It’s a word. I just made it up.) as the series continues.

And the worse he gets, the more I fall under his spell!

From The Courtesan’s Wager:

Anne, far from looking alarmed, which he half intended, looked nearly amused. And superior. Superior looking women did not often tumble into beds, at least not with the men they were acting superior toward. What the devil had gotten intoAnne? Why, before she had gotten herself engaged to Staverton, he could raise a blush in her cheeks by simply looking at her directly for more than a few seconds.

To be blunt, she had stopped her blushing habit the moment he had kissed her in Sophia’s white salon, but he didn’t like to dwell on that. Coincidence, most likely. Make that definitely. Definitely coincidence. Anything else was unthinkable.

See? He’s terrible. I lurves him! I can’t wait until the next Courtesan Chronicle, Much Ado About Dutton, comes out. To celebrate, the lovely Claudia Dain is going to visit Lady Scribes, and I have come up with a fabulous giveaway. (More on that later, closer to the release date.)

But the point of this post, Gentle Reader, is not to gush and babble like The Ultimate Fan Girl, (Oops! Too late.) but to talk about love. Specifically, falling in love, with fictional characters.

Who is the first character you fell for? Was it a person, setting or animal?

For example, I think I love the walled-in garden in the novel A Secret Garden almost as much as I love Mary and Colin. And what little girl who read Black Beauty didn’t tumble head over heels for that valiant, heroic horse? Then there is the stone lion of the Many Colored Desert, in The Never Ending Story. My heart broke, just a little, when he turned back into a cold, hard statue every night.

So, tell me, who do you love? Who was the first character you fell for, and who tops the list at the moment? I’m always looking for love!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

A Shortcut to Mushrooms

I love a good shortcut.

When I'm driving, I'll even take a longcut, if it takes me less time to get where I'm going. From my house to the bank, for example, it is about three miles if I go through town, but it easily takes twenty minutes. But if I get on the loop, it is seven miles or so...but it only takes ten minutes. I'll take the loop, please.

In terms of writing, I've picked up on a few shortcuts to make my editing process take less time. For one thing, I discovered that if I spent more time in the planning stages, really delving into my characters and plot before I ever wrote a word, I could often do a couple of brief, easy editing passes and be done. Without that extra time up front? I'd often do two to three complete rewrites, and give myself a month-long migraine in the process. Another of my shortcuts is I keep a list of words and phrases that I know I tend to overuse. Once I finish my WIP, I pull that list out and do a quick search, and then eliminate or replace 90% of the instances of those words and phrases.

I've picked up a few shortcuts with cooking, over the years. Most grocery stores sell fresh fruits and veggies already washed and prepped for cooking. Yeah, you might pay a little more...but you save a ton of time on prepwork. If I'm making chicken fajitas, why cook the chicken myself when I can buy it already seasoned, cooked, and sliced? All I have to do is heat it up. One of my favorite newer finds are the Philadelphia Cream Cheese Cooking Cremes. Make your favorite pasta, choose a protein and a few veggies, throw it all together, and add the cooking creme. Voila! You've got a great tasting, quick and easy meal.

I'm guilty of occasionally taking a shortcut in terms of reading. Well, I guess that isn't technically right. I mean, if I watch the movie but don't read the book, I didn't really read anything. Still, it only takes a couple of hours to watch the movie versus however many hours it might take to read the book. (Note that I still usually read the book afterwards, so I'm not sure I'm really saving myself any time.)

I have not fallen prey to the shortcut my sister has taken, I'm proud to say. She hates doing laundry, so when she runs out of clean clothes, she goes and buys more. Um...yeah, I think I'll just wash my clothes, thanks.

Maybe my favorite shortcut I've discovered in recent months, though, is John Freida foam hair color. I've been coloring my hair at home for years (I won't mention how young I was when I started turning gray), and it has always annoyed me how long it takes to put the dye on my hair. Not only that, but I've got a LOT of hair, so it often takes two boxes of any color to get all of mine. But with the foam hair color, the time it takes to apply it is cut down drastically...and no matter how much hair I have, I only need one box. It's amazing. Not only that, but I've never had weird patches with this one.

Do you always look for shortcuts, even if they might seem like a longcut? Do you have any recommendations for the rest of us on how to save time in our way-too-busy days? Bonus points to anyone who knows where the title for this post came from. Just don't ask me what the bonus points will get you. I haven't the slightest. :)

Wednesday, March 28, 2012


Two weeks ago I was watching late night television, which is very rare for me. I don’t watch a lot of tv, and maybe that’s for the best. But on this particular night, I was flipping through the channels and all of the sudden… HOLY BUM BUM, BATMAN! There was an infomercial about perfect booties and dancing.

On a beach.

A Brazilian beach!

I love dancing.

I’d love a perfect bum bum! (Pronounced boom boom, but it still means your bum.)

Brazil has always been on my list of places I want to see.

And beaches—well, there are umbrella drinks on beaches, right?

How could I possibly resist? I couldn’t. In the five minutes I watched the infomercial for the Brazil Butt Lift, I was sold. (Shouldn’t it be Brazilian Butt Lift, not Brazil? That bugs me a little, but you don’t buy the workout DVD to improve your grammar. You buy it because you’re seduced by the promise of a perfect behind.)

I ordered it from Amazon and my Brazil Butt Lift workout DVDs arrived along with my “Booty Makeover Guide”, “Booty Tools”, and “6-Day Supermodel Slimdown Plan” this Monday. (I’m pretty sure slim down is two words rather than one, but that’s okay.) When I opened the package, I was slightly surprised by the rather large photo of Leandro Carvalho. He looks all squinty-eyed on the infomercial, but in his picture, he has really pretty eyes.

The second surprise was that there is a test to see if you need a butt lift. Get out your pencils, ladies. Just your pencils. You’re not going to need paper for this test. (Even the booklet admits this sounds strange.) “Simply take the pencil and place it in the crease where your butt meets the top of the back of your thigh. If the pencil stays put or actually disappears, your butt lacks lift.”

I think if the pencil disappears, you have bigger problems than a saggy bottom. Stay calm and seek medical attention immediately.

The third surprise, which isn’t all that shocking really, is that supermodels have to work their butts off to have perfect bum bums. The Brazil Butt Lift workout regime totals approximately an hour a day, six days a week. You can break it up, but who wants to get sweaty twice in a day?

I did my first workout last night and I thought I was going to pass out. As with any exercise, though, I’m sure it will get much easier as I stick with it. And I can tell it’s a thorough workout. You tone muscles, it’s fast paced for cardio, and you have to balance, which means engaging your core muscles. There’s also a diet to follow. The recipes look pretty good, and there are easy snack ideas, including the best choices at a convenience store.

After looking over everything, I’ve come to the decision that perfection isn’t necessary. I can live with almost perfect. I figure even if I do thirty minutes a day, I will get some benefit from the exercises. And if I don’t, I’ll always have a place to hold my pencil.

Have you ever been tempted by an infomercial? If so, what was the product and did you buy it?

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

What's Your Bag, Baby?

One of the things I love about romance novels is the variety of situations that we find the hero and heroine in.

No, I'm talking about the dreaded T word--tropes. In other words what device or convention the author employs to throw our hero and heroine together.

Can't fight that animal attraction!
A few of my favorites:
  • Reunions (not the kind where your great-aunt tries to hook you up with your cousin either. This may or may not be a true story...)
  • Second chances at love. (Or third and fourth...)
  • Arranged marriages (Nuthin' says love like parents picking out your spouse when you're 4 and he's 10.)
  • Marriages of Convenience--especially in a contemporary (Yes, I might just be working on one. Shhh, don't tell. It's top sekrit!)
Honestly, what trope or device the author uses to get the hero and heroine together before they make their true lahve declarations doesn't matter to me. What matters is if the author can make me root for the couple.

What's your favorite Romance Novel "Situation"?

Monday, March 26, 2012


We have all been there. It canbegin when you are a child, and nobody picks you for their team. That would beme in grade school. At least with theschool teams they let everyone be on the team (that doesn’t mean you played,however). I was on the basketball team(official bench warmer I think). I also played baseball in the summer. Right field. Who really hits a ball to right field? It was the safest place to putme, if they had to play me. Mybrother-in-law even called me aimless, and continued to call me that for anumber of years, after attempting to play catch with me in the front yard. I am a hopeless athlete. Apparently my aim hasn’t improved. Thisweekend at the theater one of the actors was tossing something into thegarbage from the makeup chair. By theway, this is the same garbage can I had been tossing into from where I stood.

Actor: Think I can make it?
Me: Probably
Actor: Well, the bar isn’t settoo high. You miss most the time.

I guess I will never be a great basketball star *sigh*.

I think high school rejection is the worst, usually by way of aboy. He doesn’t like you and you are inlove. Or, you are in love, dating, and he breaks up. You aren’t picked for the musical, didn’tmake the sports team, not on the homecoming court, didn’t make cheerleading, or invited into that oh, so popular group. There are so many ways to be rejected in highschool it is heartbreaking.

By college, you have gained maturity, found friends with likeinterests, moving on with this first taste of freedom. Stupid mistakes are made along with way, buthey, you are in college and entitled. Iactually think those college years are probably the best for being rejectionfree. Well, I am sure there wererejections, but I don’t think it happens as often and some confidence has builtso you can deal with it a little better. At least, I don’t remember a lot ofrejection as I found my place.

All too soon you graduate and rejection starts all over again whilelooking for that job. Or, finding thatjob and being let go.

What if you are an artist (author, painter, actress, etc.)? If you are,you are constantly setting yourself up for rejection. Everyone who is anyone (and even if theyaren’t anyone) will have an opinion with regard to your story, work of art, orperformance. And each time somethingnegative is said it is a knife to your heart. If youare an author, you have been rejected. If you have not, then you have notbothered to submit your manuscript to an agent, publisher or contest. If you have done these things and have notbeen rejected – congratulations, you are in a minority.

So, what does one do when one is rejected? I will tell you. When the rejection comes, whether it is froma break up, losing a job, not getting picked for a team or in a letter from yourdream agent, take a day and do the following. Though most of these ideas comefrom an author’s point of view (my critique partners to be exact), I think theycan all be revised and adapted to fit any scenario. So, this is how to spend the day when youhave been rejected:

Write a letter to the person(s) who rejected you and explain why theymade a poor choice. You should do this on paper or in a wordprocessing program and not in an e-mail, so you don’t accidentally send it. Never, ever send it. This is about making youfeel better, not burning bridges.

Read negative reviews of the books you love. It proves you are not alone.

Turn off the computer and go play with your child or pet or spend timewith people you love and who love you back.

Next, go shopping. Buy stuff foryourself or for others. Buy stuff you don’t need. Be frivolous for a moment and get somethingthat makes you feel good.

Have a good work out, let all the stress and tension go.

Pour a glass of wine and go soak in a hot tub, then have a good cry.

Grab some chocolates on your way to bed, refill your wine glass andcuddle up with your hubby. And, enjoy wherever that leads.

So ends the perfect day of a rejection. Just be sure to wake up tomorrow feeling invigorated and knowing that nomatter what that person said or did, you don’t deserve to be rejected and theperfect place or person for you is right around the corner.

How do you deal with rejection?

Friday, March 23, 2012

A Night at the Salon...

September 29, 2011, Deb Marlowe, Claudia Dain, and both halves of Lydia Dare opened the preverbal doors to Lady Jane’s Salon Raleigh-Durham (a satellite of the original in NYC) in the quaint patio room of a local Irish Pub. From that debut salon until now, Lady Jane’s Salon RDU has advertised itself with the slogan - “Good Company, Great Books, and a Worthy Cause.” (The worthy cause in our case is Heather McCollum’s Shout Against the Whisper campaign, which supports Ovarian Cancer research.)

Sometimes there is truth in advertising. *I* have not missed a salon, nor do I ever plan to do so. I have heard amazing authors read from their work, and I have enjoyed the camaraderie of the other attendees month after month. (And I’m really very partial to the pub’s Chicken Cordon Bleu. Yes, it’s an Irish pub with French chicken. But it tastes so good, I’m not complaining.)

I’ve heard talented authors such as Sabrina Jeffries, Virginia Kantra, Jenna Black, Claudia Dain, and our own Lady Scribes lady – Catherine Gayle (all the way from Texas) just to name a few read at our satellite salon.

But last month…

Last month it was my turn. Well… mine, Mari Freeman’s and Kianna Alexander’s turn. And I was a little nervous.

Ok, more than a little nervous.

Despite my reputation, I’m fairly introverted and never did all that well in public speaking back in school all those many, many (ok, more many’s than I’d like to admit) years ago. PLUS everyone who’s ever heard me read always says, “Ava, you need to slow down a little.”

Slow down?

But I’ve got a rhythm going. If I slow down, I’ll stumble over my own words. And the last thing I want to do is fumble something I wrote and come off looking like an idiot in front of a group of people. Yikes! Besides, my characters talk and think fast. That’s the cadence they have. It just is.

Slow down!

Back in January, Catherine Gayle, Erin Knightley and Olivia Kelly came back to my house after that month’s salon and let me practice my selection for February on them. You know what they said…? Each one of them…? That’s right. You guessed it… “Ava, you need to slow down a little.”

My two new least favorite words… Slow dow—Wait that’s not true. My two least favorite words are and always will be my ex-husband’s name. But “slow down” is now a close second. Perhaps if I could just find a way to make everyone else hear faster...

But I digress.

Over the next month, I timed myself. I recorded myself (Erin Knightley’s suggestion). And I read it over and over and over to myself, to a couple of friends who were willing guinea pigs and even to my teenage son when he was feeling particularly charitable one evening. I had it down perfectly. 14:48 minutes. I didn’t go too fast. I didn’t go too slow. My practice had all been worth it! I was going to be amazing!!

But then the night was upon us. Dinner was over. The first reader had finished and it was my turn. Yes, I gulped. Then I took my spot on a tall chair, and silently chanted in my head, “Slow down, Ava. Slow down, Ava.”

And then proceeded to read a little too fast.

I’m not auctioneer-fast or anything, but it was a little quick. Still, I think people could hear me well enough. At least they all told me they could.

I did promise a friend who couldn’t be there that night that I’d have my reading recorded, and I did. The recording is a little blurry, but if you want a glimpse of what Lady Jane’s Salon Raleigh Durham is like (with an author who should maybe slow down just a little)...

...you can click here to see me read from my latest novella By Any Other Name, which is part of THE BETTING SEASON anthology with fellow Lady Scribes ladies – Catherine Gayle, Jerrica Knight-Catania, and Jane Charles. (I tried to imbed the YouTube video but after 7 straight hours of "uploading," I wasn't confident it would ever work and thought the link was a better option.)

All in all, I had a wonderful time, even in that tall chair in front of everyone. And I did enjoy reading from my novella. BUT, I think I’ll have even more fun listening to Lady Scribes lady Deb Marlowe read from her latest release - TALL, DARK & DISREPUTABLE; Aimee Laine read from HIDE AND SEEK; and Maya Rodale (one the original Lady Jane's Salon founding members) read from her new release - THE TATTOOED DUKE next week at the March Salon. If you’re in the RDU area, you should come hear them too. I'm sure they'll all be amazing!

Have you ever had to speak or read in front of a big crowd? Do you get nervous? Or are you cool as cucumber? Tell me all of your public speaking stories (the good and the bad) and I promise I won’t tell you to slow down. But most importantly, do you have any suggestions of how I can make others hear faster...?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Ready, Set and On the Go!

After yesterday’s hot interview with cover model Jason Aaron Baca writers, readers, stay-at-home moms, working moms, and women in general need to look “hot” too. I think as women we tend to put ourselves last on the list. So I’m here to say it’s time to make that change.

Putting yourself first on the list doesn’t make you a bad person, it makes you a smart one because when you feel good, you get more done during the day. Or at least, I know I do.

I’m a mom first and foremost. I’m a writer, a taxi driver, a cook (although not a very good one) an accountant, a maid, and so many more things. And up until last November I held a full time job. Now that I'm home all the time, I seem to have less time than ever before and I’ve come to see that I can be lazy with my appearance. I tend to toss on a pair of sweat pants, throw my hair up in a pony tail, and head out the door. I'm guilty of doing it all too often. That’s the lazy girl’s way of getting through her day. I’m ready to make a change and put “mommy” first for once. It doesn’t matter if you work a full-time job or are a stay-at-home mom. We all do it. We forget to take care of number one. Ourselves.

I’m here to say that just because we’re moms-on-the-go doesn’t mean we have to give up “looking nice” or feeling good about ourselves. So I’m on a mission to find my stay-at-home style. I refuse to look like a frumpy old maid yet. I have more than a few years left on the grid. And it’s time I did something about it.

So spring is here and I’ve devised a few quick, easy steps to “looking good on the go.”

1.           Loose clothing tends to be what we normally reach for when we think of comfort and while that’s not all bad, keep it in perspective. If you wear a loose shirt then match it up with some super chic stretchy jeans or pants. It’s cute and we need flexibility when we’re on the move.

2.           Pony tails are easy but it’s just as easy to toss your hair up into a quick twist and it helps elongate your neck, giving you a graceful quality to your look.

3.  Layers! It’s all about the layers. Wearing a cute little strappy top with a light sweater or cardigan is not only comfortable but fashionable.

4.           Accessories are a must, even in a pair of sweat pants, wearing a great clunky bracelet can make the outfit pop.

So how about you? Do you get more done when you look good? What do you like to wear when you’re on the go? Where do you get your mommy gear? Do you shop online or at your local mall? And how many of you have really put yourself first on the to-do list? Perhaps it's time to make a pledge to do so now?   

Today's Guest: Cover Model - Jason Aaron Baca...

We are joined today by romance cover model, Jason Aaron Baca. And boy do we have some questions for him! As an added bonus, Jason will stop in throughout the day to answer any questions you might have as well.

Let's get started, shall we?

So, Jason, how did you get into cover modeling? And what is your plan for after modeling?

Jason: It was a long process getting into modeling for these covers. I sent out about a million or so emails to anyone related to the business, trying to find out what I needed to do to become one of these cover guys. Some would give me helpful suggestions, some I couldn't tell if they even read my email because of the vague response I'd receive. Some would tell me that I had to have a specific agency represent me. Most people would quit right there and say, "Well, it's all over for me then." I wasn't satisfied... If I couldn't get into things with that particular publisher, then I'd get into some of the others.. And that's just what happened.

I don't have plans for anything outside of this. I take 1 thing at a time. I do plan on coming off my diet though and having a HUGE pizza and cheeseburger with fries.

Your story sounds a lot like the process we authors go through as far as sending query letters to agents and editors, the rejections, the rejections, the no responses. Congrats on seeing your dream realized! Tell us, what is the most fun you've ever had on an assignment?

Jason: I've had fun on all my projects, I liked this one assignment where I arrived at the studio out of shape, so they painted in some abs on my stomach with some strange make up machine. It was a lot of fun watching my stomach transform into a perfect piece of art in a matter of seconds when here I'd been working on those abs for years.

That has got to be the best way to get in shape!

So we know you've said you don't read romance, but have friends or family ever read a book that featured you on the cover? And if so, what was their reaction?

Jason: I have envisioned their reactions of the books I'm on the cover of and, yes, its a shocked, impressed and possibly thrown back look they have. But that is what I am. I'm not the kind of guy that you can expect to find anything normal about.

Is there any *hero* you prefer to portray more than others? Werewolf, vampire, policeman, duke, etc? Have you ever been uncomfortable with an assignment?

Jason: Yes, I actually prefer to be the bad guy, that guy on the cover that you love to hate. It hits more the creative side of me. A happy enjoyable Jason... Well, then you know how to approach, but a lurking, mysterious Jason... Hmm, lets find out more...

Have you ever been recognized in person by fans? If so, tell us all about it.

Jason: It all depends on where I'm at. If I'm at an airport, then, yes, it happens often. If I'm at a restaurant or mall, maybe sometimes I'll get looks from those that recognize me but can't pinpoint from where exactly. Then they can't stop looking. I know they realize I'm someone. They will say, "Hey, you look familiar." And I'll say I get that a lot.

What is your workout routine?

Jason: I workout 6 days per week, 1 full hour per day. I make sure to also stretch everyday, and do some form of cardio 5 days a week to keep the bodyfat % down. What helps most is living in a balanced diet. The workouts are excellent but I have learned that if you don't have a proper diet, then all the pain you go through in the gym won't benefit you completely.

If I feel my body has become exhausted from the everyday tensions of the routines, I take an extra day off. What I prefer to do is head to my local spa where I get a hydrating facial along with a steam wrap. In the sauna I make sure to include plenty of Eucalyptus so that I can really clear my head and thoughts.

So that is your workout regime... Can you describe a typical cover shoot day?

Jason: Sure, I prepare my morning with a good stretch of all my limbs. I start with the top, shoulders, neck and work my way down to the tips of my toes. Everything gets stretched out. During this time I have an ice pack wrapped around my eyes so that if my face is puffy it will help the swelling go down.

In the shower I begin with a soothing cucumber cleansing body wash. Then the Luscious Embrace Moisturizing Body Wash then an Ultra Moisture Vanilla Winter Retreat Body Wash.

For the face I use a Shine Control Purifying Cleanser followed by a skin smoothing cream scrub then an "oil minimizing toner".

After toweling off, I moisturize my body with Quench Plus Firming Body Lotion. For the face I apply an age defying 2 in 1 anti-wrinkle day cream and serum, followed by an anti-wrinkle eye cream. I let that dry for a moment while I get changed and style my hair. Then I apply an age defying daily renewal cream (preferably one with an SPF of at least 15) followed by a regenerist sculpting cream then moisturizer that will hydrate my skin through out the day.

This enables me to really take the time to appriciate myself and look and feel my absolute best when I walk out my front door for a long day's shoot. I want to unlock my face's potential on this day no matter what. I know the authors give their heart into their writings, so this is the least I can do as their cover model.

Random question - If you were an animal, what animal would you be?

Jason: I'd probably be a blow fish... From a distance they don't seem that powerful, but then if you get to close to it... What does it do? It transforms into this amazing creature! It has suddenly become "untouchable, questionable, possibly intimidating".

As romance authors, we'll occasionally get a certain "look" when we tell people what we do for a living. Is it the same for cover models? Do you ever get that "look"?

Jason: Yes, I know that "Look" all too well also. They right away think you have an attitude attached to you. Like you are some kind of macho guy that thinks he's the best around. They soon realize what a down to earth person I really am though. But when they give me that look, I too give them that same look back when they tell me what they do for a living!

If a publisher reading this wanted to book you, can they do so through your agency?

Jason: Yes they can, they can book me through Halvorson Model Mgmt.

And what about independent authors? Is there a place they can go to get stock photos of you to use for their covers?

Jason: Yes, they can go to http://www.theauthorsredroom.com/stock-photography/jason-baca/couple-images/
There are some good ones to choose from there.. There is a graphic artist on the site that can create the cover for you
as well.

Jason, thank you so much for visiting with us today! We have just one final question a certain LadyScribes lady was dying to know the answer to... Is there a cover model club? If so, where do you meet and are visitors allowed?

Jason: Well there isn't a "club" but I know where many frequent sure... http://www.romancetreasure.com/

Jason has generously offered to send his zed card to one lucky commenter, chosen at random. So, without further ado... The floor is open for questions!

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Joy of Thrift Stores

I just got back from a week-long trip to Lake Texoma, and all I got was this vintage Coach bag.

Hmmm. Let me explain.

I started thrifting when I was a teenager, out of necessity. My family did not have a lot of extra cash, and I discovered that I could spend half as much money and get twice as much stuff if I purchased items at thrift stores. When my family lived in Houston, I shopped at MAM's, which received donations from wealthy older people. Through my shopping at MAM's, I learned about designer clothing, shoes, and handbags. I became a junior high expert on vintage fashion. And I wore handmade Ferragamo loafers as I dined upon ramen noodles.

Over time, thrifting became less of a need, and more of a joy. I love thrift stores! I go thrifting on a weekly basis, and when we travel, I make a point of seeking out thrift stores in every town we hit. I love the treasure hunt feel of thrifting. You never know what you'll find. Sure—it's easier to go to Target or Wal-Mart and just grab what you need, but when I go thrifting, I have the excitement of the chase. Plus, every dollar I spend goes to a good cause.

So when we went to Lake Texoma, it was a given that we would spend at least part of our time checking out the thrift stores in the area. This is what I came home with:

--a vintage Couroc chaparral tray, valued at about $15, purchased for 50 cents;
--a vintage wool coat, probably valued at $20, purchased for 30 cents
--a vintage Coach watermelon tote designed by Bonnie Cashin, valued at $200, purchased for 30 cents
--a vintage Lou Taylor handbag with swivel mirror, valued at $25, purchased for $1
--a Laundry by Design silk sheath dress, which can be had on eBay for $50, but purchased for 30 cents

This was a particularly good thrift store haul, most of which was purchased at the Grayson County Shelter thrift store in Denison. (If you go there, say hi to Tom-Tom the cat for me—and leave some of the good stuff on the shelves, will ya?)

But this is by no means an unusual thrift store haul. Over the years, I have purchased an Hermes scarf, many Vera Bradley scarves, countless designer dresses and coats, Ferragamo and Coach shoes and handbags, a delightfully tacky velvet painting, bits of china and antique furniture. My husband and daughter have caught the thrifting bug too, and now we all go to second hand stores together as a family, scouting our own version of the perfect purchase—for me, more vintage goods; for my husband, camping gear; and for my daughter, Barbies and stuffed animals. Last week we scored two pairs of Tod's loafers in mint condition for our daughter—they'll match perfectly with her school uniform next year.

As a family, we seek out thrift stores, garage sales, and other second hand means to supply our needs, wants, and even our desire for entertainment. What about you? What are your thoughts on thrift stores? Have you found any treasures?

Friday, March 16, 2012

I haven't read that book...I'll just wait for the movie!


I think Hollywood would dry up and blow away if it wasn't for authors and graphic novelists. Can you name me five movies in the last couple of years that weren't based on a book or a comic?

Next week is the eagerly awaited movie premiere of The Hunger Games. (But you probably know this already, though, unless you have been living under a rock.)

Just like Twilight and Harry Potter before it, fans of the series are practically salivating at the thought of the novels being played out on the big screen for them.

Hey, don't get me wrong. I'm not knocking the book-turned-into-a-movie thing. Personally, some of my favorite movies started as novels or comics. I drooled over...um...adored the 2005 version of Pride and Prejudice.

Hello, Mr. Darcy...

And Gwyneth Paltrow's Emma was so funny, and as they say where I live in the Deep South, a hot mess. This may sound random and weird coming from a Regency author, but two of my all-time favorite movies, Hell Boy and Blade (Blade Three, really. Let's be honest. It's all about Ryan Reynolds.) started as comics.

Sherlock Holmes, The Lovely Bones, The Never Ending Story, The Help, Where the Wild Things Are, Eragon, Mary Poppins- all started as novels.

Batman, American Splendor, Constantine, The Losers, Men in Black, The X-Men- all started out life as comics.

I just find it odd that Hollywood comes up with so few original ideas. Is it because people want to actually see their literary favorites come to life, or is it because all the great ideas have already been written?

There are a few movies that I've really enjoyed that were original screenplays.

50/50, just out in 2011, was one. Man, I cried and laughed, and laughed and cried... and that was just in the first half hour. I was wrung dry by the end of the movie, but in a good way. I also loved Juno. What a weird, awkward, funny, painful, heartwarming movie that was. Gladiator was another original movie that I still love. A wounded hero, a heroine caught between two worlds, an epic tale of battle and revenge, and Joaquin Phoenix played the most twisted, dark, selfish, sister luving emperor ever.

What are some of your favorite books turned into movies? Do you find that movies based on novels or comics thrill or disappoint you? 
Did you ever think that a huge, red dude with broken off horns and a bad attitude could be sexy? (Umm, yeah, me neither.)

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Dear Jack; a Rant

This post could alternately be entitled: Would You Freaking Let Me Finish Placing My Freaking Order Already???

I try not to eat fast food too often. It isn't good for me, and since I try to eat somewhat healthy foods for the most part, I usually feel kind of gross after I do. But when I've got a deadline, the idea of taking the time to cook usually goes out the window, and the idea of picking something up at the drive-thru becomes rather appealing. Besides, I'm already not cleaning the house or showering as much as I should be when I'm under a deadline, so I'm already a little gross in those instances, so what's the harm in adding a little more of a gross feeling from eating fast food if it saves me the time it would take to cook and wash dishes?

That's where I was late last month.

Even though I don't eat at any fast food restaurants all that often, I really don't eat at Jack-in-the-Box very often at all. It had been so long since I'd eaten there that I could no longer remember what my aversion was to them. I mean, their food is as okay as any of the other burger joints. Why didn't I ever go there? Couldn't remember, but my brother had told me that their burgers were better now. They've started seasoning them as they cook, and so they taste less like a fast food burger and more like one you'd make at home.

So, in my deadline haze, and since I couldn't remember why I avoid JitB, I decided to go there to pick up my meal and take it back to the writing cave one day.

Here's how the drive-thru experience went:

Jack's Order Taker: "Welcome to Jack-in-the-Box. My name is Fill-in-random-name-here. Would you like to try our Fill-in-random-combo-of-the-day-that-they've-been-ordered-to-push today for only $4.99?"

Me: "No thanks. Can I get a number three, small siz--"

Jack's Order Taker: "That's a number three combo. Would you like that in small, medium, or large today?"

Me: grumble beneath my breath that I was in the process of answering that very question when they interrupted me. "Small sized with a sweet te--"

Jack's Order Taker: "What drink you would like with your small combo today?"

Me: fuming from my ears at this point, as I suddenly remember why I never visit the Jack-in-the-Box drive-thru. "I want a sweet tea and regular fri--"

Jack's Order Taker: "Great, that's a number three combo, small sized with a sweet tea. Did you want regular fries or curly fries with your combo?"

Me: trying to power my way through the rest of the order to avoid any more interruptions. "Regular-fries-and-I-want-the-burger-made-with-no-sau--"

Jack's Order Taker: "Regular fries. Got it. Does the order look correct on the screen?"

Me: nearly yelling. "No, because I don't want any sauce on my burger and I was trying to tell you that if you would have just stopped interrupting me and listened for--"

Jack's Order Taker: snippy tone. "No sauce. Is the order correct on your screen now?"

Me: ripping out hair in frustration. "YES!"

Now I remember why I don't go to Jack-in-the-Box. (As a side note, the burgers do taste better now.) In fact, I can only remember one instance in the last decade or more when I've gone to a JitB drive-thru and been able to place my order without the order taker interrupting me every few seconds to ask me a question which I was already in the process of answering. I never experienced that order taker again, and I have to believe it is because the poor guy got fired for letting me get through the process without following their obsessively annoying script. Such a shame.

So Jack and your corporate executives who have created this process? It stinks. It makes placing an order take three times as long, it frustrates your customers, and it has convinced me not to go back...despite your better tasting burgers.

Are the JitB drive-thrus this bad where you live? Are there any other places you refuse to go because of annoying customer service practices?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Welcome Debut Author, Leigh LaValle!

Thanks for having me here, Lady Scribes! I’d love to share with you ten valuable lessons I learned while writing my debut novel, THE RUNAWAY COUNTESS, which released March 6.

10 Oh-So-Easy Steps for Crazy People:
How To Write A Novel During Your Spare Time. (In my case, naptime.)

1. Tell your friends you will see them in two years. If they would like to talk to you while you are doing the dishes, cooking dinner and/or in the shower, they need to keep their phones nearby in case you call sometime next month.

2. Schedule your next hair appointment for 2014. The same goes for mani/pedis and shopping trips. Your heroines can look fabulous. You will look like a crazy woman. Exercise, healthy food, sunshine, these things are good. Anything else gets weighed against page count and word goals.

3. When it is time to write, turn off the phone, turn off the internet, and write. If possible, go to the library. (This is especially necessary if you are working at home and your husband needs to ask you a million questions about matching baby socks and the recipe for pb+j.)

4. The time leading up to writing is your launch pad. Make use of it. Whether it is driving home from work or waiting the million hours it takes for a baby to fall asleep, focus on your story. When you last left your characters, what were they feeling? Where do you need to take them today? When it is time to sit your butt down and write, hit the ground running. (Hmm, that metaphor doesn’t exactly work, but you get what I mean ;)

5. It is not possible to do a load of laundry while also writing. I do not know why this is. I simply know it is a Law of the Universe. A load of laundry will become a million other chores and reasons why you should not just write. Don’t do it.

6. Ah, tired. It would be so nice to take a nap, especially while a baby naps. Lots of sage advice about this. It goes something like “Nap while your baby naps.” I have nothing to say, other than you cannot write a book while sleeping. It is terrible, but there it is.

7. It helps to write a bit everyday. Even if you only eke out a few hundred words, it will pay off the next day. Take three days off in a row, and when you sit down to write again it will be like you’re relearning the English language.

8. Give yourself a lot of time (it took me two years to write THE RUNAWAY COUNTESS). Writing a novel during break time is a bunch of little baby tortoise steps. Sometimes, it feels like you are going nowhere. Sometimes, this is true. It helps to set weekly word goals and stick to them. Just know what is realistic (and I’m not talking about magical realism here.) Know what you can do, do it, eat your reward cookie, get some sunshine, rinse and repeat.

9. “Some may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.” Elvis said that. Wait… Know that you are not alone. A lot of writers begin their career during break time. A lot of moms write their first book while balancing family responsibilities. Find other crazy people who understand. Join RWA. Chat online (just not during your writing time.) Dare to dream.

10. Just write.

What about you, Dear Reader, how do you squeeze in time to write (or read)? One lucky commented will win a digital copy of THE RUNAWAY COUNTESS!
(Winner chosen at random at 9pm EST on March 14 and will be announced in the comments section, as well as under the CONTEST WINNERS tab at the top of the page)

Thanks for joining me today! You can find me on Facebook and Twitter. Visit my website at http://www.LeighLaValle.com

Book Blurb:
Once the darling of high society, Mazie Chetwyn knows firsthand how quickly the rich and powerful turn their backs on the l
ess fortunate. Orphaned, penniless and determined to defy their ruthless whims, she joins forces with a
local highwayman who steals from the rich to give to the poor.

Then the pawn broker snitches, and Mazie is captured by the Lord Lieutenant of Nottinghamshire. A man who is far too handsome, far too observant…and surely as corrupt as his father once was.

Sensible, rule-driven Trent Carthwick, twelfth Earl of Radford, is certain the threat of the gallows will prompt the villagers’ beloved Angel of Kindness to reveal the highwayman’s identity. But his bewitching captive volunteers nothing—except a sultry, bewildering kiss.

And so the games begin. Trent feints, Mazie parries. He threatens, she pretends nonchalance. He cajoles, she rebuffs. Thwarted at every turn, Trent probes deep into her one vulnerability—her past. There he finds the leverage he needs and a searing truth that challenges all he believes about right and wrong.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Modern Conveniences

When I think about the periods I like to write about – Regency and Georgian – it doesn’t seem like it would be so bad to live in that era.  Well, most of my characters have servants, which makes it all the more comfortable.  Besides offering heat, a fireplace can be very romantic, as are candles. 

Then there is the issue of food and cooking.  While they didn’t have the type of stove and oven that we are used to, they had something similar enough to get the job done, and probably with a bit more accuracy than my grilling.  Of course, one could always make a foil meal.  Do any of you former scouts remember making a hamburger patty, adding carrots, onions and potatoes and wrapping them up in foil and tossing them into the fire pit to cook?  I’ve done that with my kids in our fireplace.  They loved it. Oh, and have you ever made Banana boats?  You take a not too ripe banana. Peel back only one section and scoop out a trench. Toss some chocolate chips in, fold the flap back over and wrap the whole thing in foil and cook it in fire.  Oh my goodness, it is wonderful.  But, enough of the cooking over an open flame.

 I had decided that living back then may not be so difficult. I would miss the internet, cable television and such, or would I? They hadn’t been invented yet so I wouldn’t know about them. Instead, I would be socializing with real people at balls every night. It can’t get any better than that, right?

Wrong.  I recently learned there is one thing I cannot live without.  The water heater.  A few weeks ago it went out on a Sunday and we had to wait for the part to come in.  For four days we heated water on the stove and hauled it to the bathtub.  There were pots on all burners constantly (or so it seemed) waiting for the water to heat.  Once they were poured in the tub, we had to add cold water to bring it down to a temperature one could actually step into.  This was inconvenient, to say the least.  A shower was out of the question.  The water was frigid and you would turn blue after a few moments. Perhaps if I would have had a staff of footmen and maids to see to the task of hauling the water it wouldn’t have been so bad. 

The worst part was washing my hair.  I opted to do this in the kitchen sink and used the tea kettle for convenience.  My husband, wonderful man that he is, assisted.  He poured the water over my head to get the hair wet, then I soaped and lathered. When it came time to rinse, I had to keep moving my head so I could get behind the ears, both sides and the front to get all of the soap out.  I tried giving direction, but it didn’t work so well. By the time we were finished, the counters were soaked, as were the floors.  I love my husband, he spoils me rotten and he is a great guy. But, he makes a lousy lady’s maid.

The shower I was finally able to take on Thursday night was the absolutely best shower in my entire life.  So, maybe it wasn’t so easy living back then.  I am sure if I paused to think about it, there are a number of things I wouldn’t want to do without, but right now, the water heater is the most important.

Which appliance or modern convenience could you not life without?

Friday, March 9, 2012

Donut (Dang) You Auto Correct!

We've all had it happen. The quickly dashed off text, tweet or email to a friend, boss, co-worker or family member that when we re-read it leaves us pink cheeked and dying for a do-over function.

Auto Correct was supposed to make the spelling-challenged of us lives better. No more remembering i before e except after c and in words like weird and sleigh. Or how many flippin' e's are really in Tennessee. Oh Auto Correct you drew me in like a nith to a flange moth to a flame.

I was okay with silly little mix-ups, like the time I texted Hot Builder and asked him to go to Fishnets to get me a muffler.

What Auto Correct had in mind
What I had in mind
        Do these two pictures look like the same thing to you?                                        

And I can't tell you how many times I get this:
What Auto Correct thought I meant
mixed up with this:

What *I* really meant

No harm, no foul and at least that text was between me and my husband.  Unlike the time I tweeted Sabrina Jeffries about how ORGIES SOUND FUN!!!!

@SabrinaJeffries @Ava_Stone OMG I meant Ottowa!!!!!
11:48 AM - 28 Aug 11 via Twitter for Android · Details
·        Close
@marquitaval @Ava_Stone Phew! Because I was really scratching my head over that one. :-)
12:18 PM - 28 Aug 11 via web · Details

Oh no she didn't!

Yep, right there in front of God and everyone. So now I try to be extra careful about what I type and double check things before I hit send.

Still sometimes lipstick (what?!?) stuff happens.

Have you ever had an Auto Correct Fail or sent off an email that you wished you could do over?

Happy Friday!!!


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Lost to Time ~ A real Barbadian Treasure

Interesting little find I ran across as I was researching one day for my next series called the Exiled Lords which will be set in Barbados, West Indies during the regency era. Sam Lord was a famous buccaneer who amassed great wealth during the late regency era by luring ships into the coral reefs. He hung lanterns out along the beaches in front of his Georgian mansion making the distant ships out to sea believe they sailed close to the large port of Bridgetown harbor and they would run aground, sinking just off shore. The loot and bodies would wash ashore and legend has it he hid the wealth in underground caves along the beach.
A treasure which legend has it was never found. You can find out more about this piece of history here: http://www.totallybarbados.com/barbados/About_Barbados/Local_Information/Barbados_Parishes/St_Philip/

The beautiful mansion was later turned into a five-star hotel. Due to lack of funds, the owners let it rot and eventually it was burned to the ground in 2010. History lost to politics because no one wanted to stake a claim and fix it. So sad.
Perhaps the stories and pictures will be enough to remember history as it once was but truthfully once our history is gone, it’s gone. Let’s never lose sight of why we are who we are and how we made it here. Let’s keep our history vibrant, alive and well for the next generation. Stories like this sadden me greatly and cement the reason I write in the historical genre. Treasures like this can found the world over. Let’s not lose another piece of our puzzle to time, let’s help them live and breathe life into a new generation of history lovers. Without our past, we will never know where we are going or how we got there.
Let's take just a brief moment to remember why we love this genre as we much as we do. I’ve passed my love of history onto my children and hopefully their children will love it as well. I hope to one day visit the remains of Sam Lord's Castle and other small, hidden treasures like it. What about you? How has our past impacted your life and what are some of the little treasures you’d love to pass on to the next generation?

A haunting video of the castle's last moments. It gives me chills every time I watch it. 

Are you missing the gift in others?

Do you ever have days where you think you have nothing to say?  I was dinged in my inbox several days ago with a reminder that today was my day to blog on ladyscribes.  My poor brain feels literally fried from trying to write two different novels in two different time periods at the same time and facing more changes to the beginning of one of them.  I complained on the playground to my friend today that I literally felt like I had nothing to say.

My friend and I got to chatting about blogging and she told me I should read this blog called Hands Free Mama www.handsfreemama.com.  This is an amazing blog!  I encourage each of you to take the time to check it out.  Her blog post today was about looking at the flip side of your child’s weakness and seeing it as a possible positive.  This post touched me personally.  I don’t usually get too intimate on my blogs, but I realized I just had to share my story.

Lately, my oldest boy, a second grader, has had a bit of a problem with a few older kids bullying him at school.  Nothing too serious, but enough for him to feel bad about himself.  My child is smart, sweet and funny.  He is always kind to everyone, so I was especially angry that some other children would be picking on him.  I talked to several people who told me boys just need to be tough.  I questioned this.  My son is tough enough, believe me.  He has a little brother and they go at it all the time leaving bruises and tears in their wake.  He plays every sport known to man and he is more than willing to stand in the freezing cold or boiling hot to excel and help bring his team to victory. 

What my son hesitates to do is to respond to someone being mean to him by being mean back.  Granted, I don’t want my son to let people push him around, but I never want to change the part of him that tries to reason and discuss and hesitates to use violence when there is undoubtedly another way.  I realized today when reading the Hands Free Mama article what some people may see as my son’s weakness is his gift. 

He is a negotiator and a thinker.  How tragic if I were to try and change this about him.  Perhaps he will someday be President of the United States.  Would you want someone leading the country who didn’t try to negotiate with the enemy before they pushed the button that sent us into nuclear war?  I know I wouldn’t.

I am so glad I read the Hands Free Mama blog tonight, because it opened my eyes to appreciating the special gifts each of my children are bringing to this world.  I have no doubt my child’s gift will change this world for the better one day.

I encourage each of you to look at your child’s weakness and try to flip it and see what strength may be found in that weakness.  Have any of you ever perceived a weakness in yourself or someone you knew that turned out to be an amazing gift?

Have a thought provoking day!
Julie Johnstone, The Marchioness of Mayhem

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Another h-APP-y post

Constantly juggling home life, work life, and writing obligations? Are you time poor and wishing there were more hours in the day? I’ve had a really busy few months juggling a blog tour, book release, and home life. I feel like I’ve barely left the house, and my computer, in weeks. But I took a prowl through the Apple App store one night and I stumbled on three new apps that really make me h-app-y.

First off, I discovered Wordpress have put out a great app. My personal blog is over at Wordpress.com and this app makes publishing posts on the go so, so easy. From the app you can write new posts, write and edit pages, add images direct from your phone, set it to draft or publish it. You can check comments and even check your site statistics. What is really brilliant is that aside from managing multiple blogs that you might be a member of, it can also manage two (or more) unconnected blogs at once. So if you blog with two pen names, you should check it out.

Next, Blogger also have an app, too. You can switch between multiple blogs. Write, add images, and publish posts. But unfortunately you cannot see site statistics or see all the comments at a glance like you can with wordpress, and I haven’t found where you can log in as a second (unconnected) identity. It’s tied much more closely to the one blogger address, so will still be great for some bloggers.

Third, but by no means least, is the MailChimp app. 
I do a monthly newsletter for my subscribers through the service and once it’s gone out, I like to check things like my open rate and clicks to special offers I may have given them. Through the app, I can also see new subscribers, lists, and other fun statistics, too. 

What does all this mean for me, and you? Greater freedom. For me, I can browse and stay up to date while out for coffee or killing time while waiting for my son at soccer training. I used to do all these things on my pc but now I’m no longer house bound. Have iPhone can travel.

Until next time

Heather Boyd