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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Come Sail Away

by Catherine Gayle

Last week, I went on my very first cruise with fellow Lady Scribes Jerrica Knight-Catania and Ava Stone, along with Jerrica's husband and lovely daughter. We joined the FRW Fun in the Sun Conference on the Liberty of the Seas and headed for Cozumel. Ava and I left behind 18 degree temperatures in North Carolina to head to Cozumel, Mexico. (We won't talk about the 81 degree weather in Palm Beach that the Catanias have been experiencing.)

But I'm not going to talk about the conference in this blog. I want to talk about the cruise. You know, the important stuff.

Milkshakes, right?
I am certain these were kid friendly.

How did this get in here?

We might have had a few drinks while we were on board the ship. Not too many. We aren't lushes or anything...well, some of us. The thing about being on a cruise ship is that there are people carrying around delightful concoctions on trays all day long, and it is really easy to just say, "Sure, I'll have a dozen!"

But there was more than just alcohol to be found! Like the cupcakery.
We were all proud of the little princess's frog and lion cupcakes.
Ben and Jerry's made sure we never lost a pound.
But we did a lot of shopping, I mean walking, around the Royal Promenade to help with all the desserts.
We even found a little time for some swimming.
On our day off in Cozumel, Ava taught all the men how to drive a dune buggy before we went snorkeling.

Don't ask me why she took us to see the cocodrillos.

Back on the ship, we had some fun.

Then we worked.

Then we had some fun WHILE we worked.
These kid-friendly drinks (see the maraschino cherries???) were great inspiration.
Don't ask me what these two were up to. I might snort in laughter while trying to tell you.
Serious Writers At Work.
Don't we look all professional and relaxed?

Alas, the good times had to come to an end at some point. After four nights on the ship, we returned home with fresh ideas for our writing, a bunch of words written, and a renewed vigor to get back to it. We'll choose to forget about the cold/flu/sinus infection, Montezuma's revenge, and vertigo, not to mention the fact that we had to live without Twitter for FOUR WHOLE DAYS.

What's the weather been like lately where you live? Do you have any good ideas on how I can get someone to carry those entirely-kid-friendly drinks around on trays at my house? Who wants to come with us on the next cruise?

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

How To Spot A Drama Queen

By: Julie Johnstone

To be perfectly honest, I had no clue what I was going to blog about today. I took over one of the other Lady Scribes' regular blog days on Monday because I failed to realize I was up to blog today. This is what happens when you don’t have enough sleep or hours in the day to get organized so that you can get to bed early enough to get the sleep you need. It’s a viscous cycle―I swear!

Inspiration struck me when I was on Facebook. I knew all that wasted time browsing post would come in handy someday! One of my fellow critique partners posted something that said, “1st clue that someone is a drama queen: She says, "I don't want you to think I'm a drama queen." Gives it away every time.” I laughed so hard, and it gave me the idea to write a blog about drama queens!

I think having personally known many, and having a tendency to create funny, dramatic side-kicks, makes me a semi-expert. Okay. Not really, but I have to write about something, and I know you guys will cut me a break. So here are five clues you know someone is a drama queen.

1. She shows up for a hike in the woods in a matching outfit that sparkles, and her shoes of choice for the hike are heels.
2. She believes a bad hair day is a legitimate reason to cry.
3. She believes a pimple is a legitimate reason to stay in the house until said pimple goes away.
4. She always has a crisis bigger than yours. You lost your job? She suddenly has lost hers and her car.
5. Finally, you can never have a girl’s night out that doesn't end with her in tears. *Caveat-unless a super hot guy gets her number.

I can’t resist a little excerpt from one of the drama queens created from my own imagination. Meet Sally who is Whitney Rutherford’s sidekick in Conspiring with a Rogue.

A door clicked, footsteps padded across the hardwood floor, and the hiss of the curtain rings being slid across the wood rod had Whitney cursing against her pillow. Sally would be the only one entering this room as Mr. Wentworth had explicitly told Mr. Nabors, the groom of the chamber, no assistance was required due to a morbid shyness.

The bed sank beside Whitney and a warm hand rubbed across her forehead. “Wake up, darling. We have a disaster.”

Sally’s words sent alarm racing through Whitney, and she bolted up, almost throwing Sally to the floor. She grasped Sally by the arm and hauled her back onto the bed. “Don’t tell me Peter decided to refuse your request.”

“Don’t be ridiculous, darling. Peter can refuse me nothing, which is one of the reasons I love him.”

“Your modesty is astounding,” Whitney replied, her heartbeat slowing from its frantic, worried pace.
With a frown, Sally rose from the bed and started pacing the room. Whitney watched her friend wear a path back and forth across the Aubusson carpet until she could take no more. “What is it? If Peter is still agreed upon helping, what’s the disaster?”

Sally faced her, hands planted on her hips. “Which would you prefer first, the major disaster or the minor inconvenience which led to the disaster?”

“Any other choices?” she asked dryly.

Sally shook her head.

Whitney scooted back against the mounds of pillows. If she was going to receive bad news, she might as well be comfortable. “How can we have a disaster this early in the morning? Surely Peter has yet to have time to do your bidding?”

“It’s not early.” Sally strode to the window and threw open the shutters. Bright sunlight shone through the opening. “It’s noon, darling.” Sally eyed her narrowly. “Just how long did it take you to fall asleep?”

Noon? Whitney’s mouth suddenly felt very dry. Noon was plenty of time for several catastrophes to occur. She glanced at the nightstand and grasped the glass of water she had put there last night. The drink helped to moisten her mouth, but her stomach was doing somersaults, and there was nothing she could do to help that. “It was dawn when I finally drifted away. I feel dreadful.”

“You look dreadful, too.”

“And they say in the ton you are all that’s kind,” Whitney grumbled. “If they only knew the real you.”

“Oh, darling, I’m sorry.” Sally sat on the bed and faced her. “Your betrothed arrived very early this morning.”

Shock was a funny thing. Whitney had always thought herself a calm person, but in the last several days, she had found herself with a racing heart, unable to speak, and her mouth hanging open. This was one of those moments where disbelief took away all coherent thought. “Huh?” she managed, quite proud she got that one word out.

“Close your mouth, darling, it’s unsightly.”

Now, tell me your drama queen story!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Lady Scribes Welcomes New York Times Bestselling Author Carly Phillips

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Writing is a solitary profession.  I sit behind a computer screen and make characters and stories come to life.  Alone.  At least, that was how I did it for years, relying on email to reach out and talk to writing friends in between working.  Waiting for them to write back.  

Not any longer.  Not since the advent of a little thing called Twitter.  Twitter can open up a writer's world and make it a little less lonely.  It can give you people to write with.  Really!  It did all that for me.

In writing PERFECT FIT, I found a group of writers who were online at the same time as me in the morning.  Who wanted to write at that time.  Who decided it would be fun for us to do what's called a #sprint - meaning at a time when we all agree, we start writing in 30 min increments, checking in at the end of the half hour.  Sometimes it's a huge amount of pages/words and sometimes it's a piddly embarrassment.  But guess what? That piddly amount adds up.  On a good day, we would do 4 thirty minute increments - that's two hours of writing time, four to five days a week.  

Thanks to these people who I've never met in person, PERFECT FIT was written.  Not so solitary anymore, am I?  

The best part of sprinting is knowing there are people relying on me to show up at a certain time, so their books get written too.  The side benefit is that my book got written as well.  Sprinting taught me discipline.  Sprinting got me so into my book I couldn't wait to sit down each day and work.  The bad news? When the book was finished and I went through that period of plotting another story, then painstakingly pushing myself through the beginning, (which I hate) discipline fell by the wayside.  I had to start all over again and relearn how to #sprint.  How to show up every day.  But I managed.  Want to know why? Because my #sprinting partners were there.  Waiting.

New York Times bestselling author Carly Phillips tossed away her legal briefs and a career as an attorney to become a stay at home mom.  Within the year, she turned her love of reading into an obsession with writing.  Over 25 published novels later, Carly writes sexy contemporary romances, striking a balance between entertainment and emotion, and giving her readers the compelling story they have come to expect and enjoy.
Carly is a New York Times bestseller, USA Today Bestseller and Publisher’s Weekly bestseller.  The triple play earned her a spot on Romance Writers of America’s coveted Honor Roll.  In 2002, Carly’s novel, The Bachelor, became Kelly Ripa’s “Reading with Ripa” pick on Live with Regis and Kelly, making it the first romance ever chosen on a nationally televised bookclub.
Carly received her undergraduate degree from Brandeis University and is a graduate of Boston University School of Law (J.D.). To date, Carly has over twenty-five novels to her credit, all available wherever books are sold.
When not writing or playing online, Carly loves to read, to knit, and to spend time with her family.  She lives in Purchase, New York with her husband, two daughters and two soft-coated wheaten terriers who act like their third and fourth children.

You can find Carly all over the web:

~ Website

One lucky winner will receive one of my backlist Serendipity books - Serendipity, Destiny, Karma or Kismet  (e-only) as a prize for commenting!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Can a leopard change its spots?

Written by: Julie Johnstone
Let's pretend for a moment that a rake, aka a womanizer, is a leopard. A leopard and men, who are rakes, are actually alike in several ways. They are opportunistic hunters who adapt to whatever environment you throw them in. Leopards and rakes have notorious abilities for being stealthy. Also, the leopard consumes virtually any animal it can hunt down and catch, much like a rake will seduce any woman he can convince.

Yet though leopards and rakes do indeed seem to have many things in common there is one way they are distinctly different. I bet everyone knows the saying a leopard can't change its spots. This links back to the notion that a person cannot change their basic nature.

Not true! Just ask any lover of romance in which the premise is that a man can be reformed. And there is no higher cause to spur a man to change than love. Just ask Andrew Whitton, Earl of Hardwick who just happens to be my hero in my newly released novella The Redemption of a Dissolute Earl.

I stand firm in my belief that a woman cannot change a man, but a woman can induce a man to want to change. That's exactly what my heroine Charlotte Milne did for my hero Drew.

Here is a little blurb: 
The day Andrew Whitton, Earl of Hardwick chooses his fortune over the woman he loves, Drew discovers that money makes for a cold bed partner.  Now, no matter how far he runs, the memory of his betrayal haunts him, and there’s not enough liquor to dull the past or diminish his disgust. * Charlotte Milne trusted in happily ever after until her knight turned out to be wearing rusty armor.  Drew, the scoundrel, seduced her, though she very much enjoyed the seduction by the man she’s loved since childhood.  Left scandalously ruined, Char flees her home intent upon forgetting Drew and proving her worth. * Separated by disloyalty and pain, each struggle to bury the memories of the other until a mandatory summons from the Duke of Danby sets them on a path of collision to Danby Castle.  With the tides of irrevocable change rising, Drew must find a way to show Char that even the most selfish of rakes can be redeemed by love before the woman of his heart becomes the wife of another. 

I first wrote Drew and Char's story in Gift of Seduction which was part of an anthology called A Summons From Yorkshire (Regency Christmas Summons Collection 1). Drew and Char were so much fun for me to write, but I always wished I could develop their story more, so this last month I did! I took their short novella of 38 pages and expanded it to a longer novella of 84 pages. During the expansion, I not only more fully developed Drew and Char's story, but I flushed out the character of Drew's exasperating and mysterious cousin, Nicholas Beckford, Lord Edgeworth, who henceforth in my mind shall be known as Edgy-thanks to one of my humorous critique partners.

It has been such a thrill to be able to expand on Drew and Charlotte's story and lay the foundation for Edgeworth's story, which if the stars align as I hope will be published in the later part of this year.

I hope if you loved Drew and Char's story, or if you loved Edgeworth or perhaps you loved them all, you will check out The Redemption of A Dissolute Earl and continue the romance with me.

Now for a little taste of the story:

None of Drew’s heated fantasies of Char this past year had included her demanding in a most unfriendly tone that he let her go. Which was precisely why he was sure he was not having another one of his lovely daydreams about her. Her angry tone―along with the fact that some man was staring fiercely at him―increased Drew’s confidence he wasn’t dreaming. He’d had some debauched fantasies in his life, but never had a man been in any of them.
Drew curled his fingers tighter around Char’s warm, silky arms. Normally, he prided himself in the ability to remember precise details of situations and people, but even his memory was not so superb that he’d been able to perfectly conjure up the way his heart jerked when she was near, the way her smell of freesia immediately relaxed him, or the way her burning skin warmed him to his soul.
This was definitely real. Char was here, in the flesh, an answer to a prayer he’d been too ashamed―too afraid―to plead. He breathed deeply of her and pulled her close.
“Char,” he whispered in her ear, the soft curls of her fiery red hair tickling his nose.
“Let me go, you drunken imbecile.” Char’s slippered foot ground down on his toe in a manner that certainly did not say, “I forgive you.”
Let her go?
Ha, ha, and bloody ha. He’d sooner cut off his hand than let her go a second time. Fate had finally decided to crown him the golden son again, and he was not about to argue with fate. Though his mind was a bit fuzzy from the copious amounts of liquor he’d consumed to withstand the choppy boat journey from France and―if he was being honest, which from time to time he managed to be with himself―to forget the flaming-haired temptress glaring at him, he was determined to embrace this gift and immediately set things right.
In the spirit of embracing the offering, he pulled Char tighter, wincing when she tried to squirm away from him. Fate may have given him a gift, but he suspected a hearty payment of groveling was due before he could claim his prize. “I see you’ve not forgotten or forgiven.”
“Surely you jest?” Char’s perfectly kissable red lips turned down into a frown.
His groin pulsed to painful awareness of the woman he held so close. He cleared his throat. “I was a weak, damnable ass.”
She jerked one arm free and then the other. “At least we agree on that.” She was good at deftly maneuvering out of his grasp, but she was no match for him. He smiled the roguish smile he knew she once loved as he tapped his fingers, now twined securely around her waist. “You’re fast, but as usual, I’m faster.”
The line that had served to send them both into bales of laughter in the past, elicited a deeper frown from Char. Perhaps reminding her of how he had always managed to capture her and undress her before she could stop her laughter and protest was not one of his wisest decisions. “I’m sorry,” he hurriedly supplied. By God he was. His heart throbbed with just how damnably sorry he was.
“You’re precisely twelve months too late."

I would love to know if you believe love can really reform a man!

If you would like to buy The Redemption of a Dissolute Earl simply click on the title, and it will take you straight to the Amazon page. The novella is also available at Barnes and Noble and will soon be available at all major e-book retailers.

Have a great day!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Another year older

I celebrated my birthday this past weekend. Eh, celebrate might be too strong of word. It was more like endured. I'm very fond of the birthday, not so much the aging. 
But we aren't talking about my climbing years.
 I've long since passed the age where my birthdays are fun, so when my parents ask what I want for my birthday, I reply with, "Money."

It's not really what I want--I like unwrapping presents as much as the next gal--but money can be put to good use whereas a new purse is a wasted opportunity. As a one income family, we are budgeted down to the air we breathe, so I usually spend the money on things we need. 

It's a real blast, I assure you.
Like shaving your legs with a lawn mower.
 Now, bearing in mind how tight I budget, I've been scrimping and saving for something I've wanted for what feels like forever--a new desk. It's come close a couple of times, then my car rolls over and plays dead so that savings goes into repairs.

This is my exact reaction.

But this year, things went differently.
My mama, saint of all things living, called a few days before my birthday and, before I even said hello, blurted out, "Your desk is paid for and waiting for you to pick it up."

Shut the fridge, Martha Frampton.

I don't think I even ended the call before peeling out of my driveway like a cheetah on crack to bring home my new toy to hug it and squeeze it and love it forever!

Was I daunted by the fact it was in a hundred pieces, broken down into two heavy boxes? Nooo, I would lovingly craft that thing into the desk it was meant to be. 

Le Husband offered to help, but I chased him from the room with my hammer. Heh. Not really (yes, really). I learned long ago we cannot collaborate on home improvement projects.
He's meticulous and anal.
I'm not.
Clearly, he's the problem.

I put together half while the kids were in school...
This is approximately when the cursing began.

and subsequently had to finish with the kids up my butt.

Yeah. Them.

But after hours of gently tapping (hammering the crap out of it), patiently twisting the screws into proper alignment (threading the screws and then hammering the crap out of them), and giving it quiet praise (cursing  and threatening it like a Viking with a chip on his shoulder), it was all worth it. My writerly space went from this...

Cramped office, gently nestled in the smallest corner of Hell.

to this...

Command center for world domination.
All in all, it was a fabulous birthday! Have you had a birthday you expected to be meh and it turned out wonderful?

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Welcome Debut Author Jennifer Lohmann

Welcome to Lady Scribes Harlequin Super Romance Writer Jennifer Lohmann!

Thank you, Lady Scribes, for having me on your blog and hello to all you readers! I’m happy to be here and to talk about my February debut, Reservations for Two. Reservations for Two is the story of Tilly Milek, a chef, and Dan Meier, the restaurant review who nearly destroys her career. Dan works as a freelance food writer and writes, anonymously, for a blog called CarpeChicago. And that’s what I want to chat with you all about today—food blogs.

If you read my book, you will quickly learn that I like food. I like to talk about food, I like to read about food, I like to cook food, and I like to eat food. Nestled among the many romance blogs in my RSS feed are my favorite food blogs. I don’t read all the blogs to cook from them—indeed I don’t cook from very many of them. I read them for inspiration and to imagine what I would do with a kitchen that had a gas range and a dishwasher. Sometimes I read a post and think, “that sounds lovely, but I will never. . .” But I do love to read about other people doing it. Food porn, in its purest form.

Chocolate and Zucchini (www.chocolateandzucchini.com) is favorite blog. It’s aspiration reading at its best. Clotilde Dusoulier lives in France and writes about cooking with the wonderful ingredients available to her in Paris. Lest you worry that you won’t be able to cook her food because you don’t live down the street from a Parisian bakery, let me assure you that her recipes are straightforward and she approaches cooking with love, but with the recognition that sometimes dinner just has to get on the table.

We Cook (www.bruceandmark.com/we-cook/) is a blog written by Bruce Weinstein and March Scarbrough, who also writes cookbooks and knitting books. Mark and Bruce write about eating a diet centered on whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, but don’t forget that food is also comfort. Their recipes include things like oat apple crisp and meatballs. Yum.

Mid-Century Menu (www.midcenturymenu.com) is on the goofier side of food blogs. While the rest of us may snicker at the fifty-year old recipe booklet put out by a tuna company (“includes dessert!”), Ruth actually makes them. Tom, her husband, is the taste tester. She has a special section on her blog called “Hello Jell-O” and “The Worst” section is food for giggles. This is not a blog for food snobs; this blog is for people who love food in all its forms. The Raspberry Rhubarb Salad is on my list to make when rhubarb is back in season.

So what about you? Do you read food blogs? What are your favorites? I have one copy of Reservations for Two to give away to one random commentator.

Jennifer Lohmann is a Rocky Mountain girl at heart, having grown up in southern Idaho and Salt Lake City. After graduating with a degree in Economics from the University of Chicago, she moved to Shanghai to teach English. Back in the United States, she earned a Master’s in Library Science and now works as a public librarian. She was the Romance Writers of America librarian of the year in 2010. She and her husband live in the Southeast with a dog, two chickens, and four cats. Her debut novel, Reservations for Two, is now available. Her second book, The First Move, comes out in April, 2013. You can find her online at jenniferlohmann.com, Twitter (@iferlohmann), Goodreads (http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6468590.Jennifer_Lohmann), and sometimes Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/iferlohmann).

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Getting to Know You

First, I want to thank the other Lady Scribes for inviting me to join their blog. It’s so great to be here among all these talented ladies. Many of them I’ve already read their works and truly admire and the rest I’m looking forward to digging into their books and blog posts and getting to know better. On that note, I thought it might be fun for my first post to tell you all some little known facts about me, things you might not be able to find out through venues such as my website or other social media channels. So here we go!

I’m a music buff. Okay, that’s not quite true. I do love music, eagerly absorbing all kinds and concocting playlist after playlist, but if pressed I would be the first out in Fox’s old Don’t Forget the Lyrics show. In fact, my husband loves to tease me about how I tend to make up my own lyrics to a song (don't even ask me who the band is!). The only time I can beat him at this game is when the song in question is from the stage. Growing up in a small town with a highly recognized music school (The Crane School of Music) allowed me the opportunity to experience many live musical productions. Even before I became a book connoisseur (okay, devourer) I was a musical junkie. I think the musical was the first artistic venue where I truly let my imagination take flight. I’ll never forget how the house lights would dim and I’d hold my breath in anticipation of those first drifting notes from the pit crew. Then, for the next hour or two I’d dream. What if that was me up there on stage? What if that was my story? What if… What if… Oh yeah, heady stuff for an imaginative young girl. I don’t get out to musicals much anymore, but I do still dance around the house humming along to the notes of my mind’s own orchestra and sometimes… well sometimes the dreams I dream drive me to tap out some music on my keyboard too!

I’m a pasta freak…and it’s killing me! See, I’m trying to wean myself off refined white flour. It’s all part of my “eat healthier” resolution. That means that all things yummy from cupcakes to Italian bread to pasta is pretty much off limits. And yeah, I’ve tried the whole-wheat kind, but though high in all those good kinds of things like fiber, it doesn’t hold the same sort of comfort food standard that I need when I’m craving those carbs (something that happens a lot when a story is not going the way I want it!) So, if you have any healthy suggestions to help stop the cravings, please let me know!

I think I might have MPD (multiple personality disorder). I’d like to say this diagnosis is limited to two personae—the wife, mom, and respectable PTO board member living opposite the gleefully viscous paranormal romance author who tortures heroes and heroines alike—but beyond these fronts, is a whole other level of dark. See, lately I’ve been positively entranced with reading and writing the types of stories that would keep any sane person up at night, which is kind of ironic since….

…I’m scared of horror movies. Witches, vampires, zombies, ghosts and all those other baddies that go bump in the night? I’ll read ‘em, write ‘em, but go and see those monsters on the big screen? No way. For years I tried to pretend I could handle it. My friends all loved these kinds of ghastly productions and my hubby? Well when we first started dating he thought it was a great excuse to get me to cuddle up real close to him. He was right. What he didn’t count on was later, after things got serious, being introduced to a night of tossing and turning because I couldn’t purge the nightmares from my mind, or the hike in the electric bill because I had to have every light on in the house just to take a late night jaunt to the bathroom!  So no more horror movies for me…I’ll stick to writing about them thank you very much.

So that's it, some of my deepest darkest secrets. Feel free to ask any questions or, even better, perhaps you'll be brave enough to share your own little known secrets!

Until later,
Lady Hellion

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Honestly, I'm Not This Neat Or Organized

by Hanna Martine

When Julia Quinn spoke at my RWA chapter's (Chicago-North) conference, she said something I'll never forget: that she was essentially a slob. That her office is a disaster and she doesn't know what half the stuff is on the shelves. I breathed a massive sigh of relief. Yay! Another writer like me!

For my first Lady Scribes post I thought I'd give you a peek inside my office, inside my own madness, then I realized that I'd picked up and cleaned the place not too long ago. Apologies for the neatness. It's not usually like this. I swear.

The cheapo desk from Ikea whose drawers don't open all the way. The coffee, tea and wine spills wipe up easily, though.

  1. I keep a separate notebook for each novel I'm working on. This was a huge step for me, because I used to just have one notebook, and just randomly scribbled notes I could never find when I needed them. See how far I've come?!
  2. My ancient, by Apple computer standards (ie, 5 years old) iMac. (A hint about Elementals book 3, Griffin's book, is on screen.)
  3. Wine! I'm celebrating turning in a book on 1/21/13 (Long Shot, the first of my Highland Games contemporary novels).
  4. Research books. "Treehouses of the World" (for a super sekrit project!) and "The Mammoth Book of Gorgeous Guys" (just because--does this need explanation?).

One of two wine corkboards surrounding my desk.
  1. Mmmm Sam Worthington. This photo is how I imagine Jase, the air elemental introduced in A Taste of Ice.
  2. I have no idea who this woman is, but she was my muse for Dr. Kelsey Evans, the heroine of my novella, No Surprise More Magical, coming out in March in the Unbound anthology. Only my good doctor doesn't wear shiny Jane Fonda Workout stretch pants.
  3. A gorgeous, delicate, folded paper bookmark my translator bought for me during a trip to Tokyo. I was a fool and actually used it for, yanno, books, and it got worn down and the girl lost the beautiful flowers she was holding.
  4. I bought this flag in the airport as I was leaving Australia, after having spent a college semester in Perth.
  5. Haha--a Valentine's card my husband got me last year that always makes me laugh.

The bookshelves. Good thing they are metal and won't sag.
  1. Top shelf: books I've read and want to keep for some reason (because I love them, because I learn from them, etc.)
  2. My paper TBR pile. Seriously. It's two columns deep.
  3. Craft books and research books.
  4. Author copies of my own books.
Are you a messy or neat person? What do you keep around your desk? How big is your TBR pile? Anything you see in these pix you want to know more about?

Monday, January 21, 2013

Scent Memories

For me, the hardest decision to make about a heroine is not the color of her eyes or her hair, but her fragrance. Scent invokes so many strong emotions in a reader. Who can forget Ellen O'Hara, and her scent of lemon verbena? Long after Ellen dies in Gone with the Wind, Scarlett can bring her mother to mind with just a whiff of her scent. To me, a character or person's scent is stronger than eye or hair color, which can be shared. Scent reacts differently and can take on a life of its own depending on each person's body chemistry; it is, in a way, as singular as a fingerprint.

When I was in high school, I found one perfume that I had to buy. Annick Goutal's Gardenia Passion. I sniffed a sample in Vogue and was hooked--no matter what the cost, I had to have a bottle. I saved up my money from cleaning kennels in a vet clinic and, with one Christmas' worth of gift money, had enough for one small bottle. I remember walking in to Neiman-Marcus and my knees trembled. I was shockingly out of place in such a fine store, but the floor walker graciously assisted me anyway--as though I were a princess in disguise. He even made sure that my purchase was wrapped in layers of tissue paper before being tucked in a scarlet bag.

When the bottle was empty, I saved it. I saved every scrap of wrapping from that purchase for years. And then as I grew older, I was able to afford Gardenia Passion and wore it for decades--it became my personal scent. But something happened over the past year or so--my body chemistry changed, or something altered in the formula and I no longer smelled like me. I took the opportunity to change scents, but I still wanted to smell like a gardenia.

I found Goest Perfumes through an Etsy listing for a scent called "Silent Films"--any perfume made to smell like an old movie has my vote. I tried a sample of Silent Films and it was amazing--but too strong for me to carry off. So I asked Jackie, the owner, if we could create a scent that smelled like a blend of Silent Films and Gardenia. Bespoke perfumes are her specialty, so she agreed to the challenege with zest.

Every aspect of the bespoke perfume process was fun, frivolous, and intensly personal. I answered a lengthy questionnaire that helped Jackie understand my likes and dislikes. She sent samples my way--not merely to wear but to try on paper so I could catch the different notes as the scent aged. And finally, just yesterday, I received my personal, custom scent in the mail.

The heroine has her scent! And it's uniquely mine.

My Handley sisters smelled like violets--as soon as I discovered their scents, I understood their characters even though Harriet and Sophie are very different women. My newest heroine, Susannah Siddons, is more open and passionate and so orange blossom is her signature fragrance. Now that I have developed my own signature scent, I feel like a heroine of my own making.

What is your favorite scent? One lucky commentor today will win a fragrance sample trio pack from Goest Perfumes. Please include your email address. Contest open to US residents only. Thank you!

Friday, January 18, 2013

National Treasures

.....by Olivia Kelly

I love museums. I don't get to visit them much anymore, since it's pretty hard to concentrate on Rodarte when your kids are practicing their best WWE moves. There are a few kid-friendly museums that we visit, but I miss "adult" museums. 

This is a fairly typical day.
I think my mom started taking me to museums early, when I was maybe six or seven, but then I've always been pretty fascinated by art of all forms. (Well, okay, I don't get the trash/food/pubic hair installations. I mean, c'mon.) We lived in Connecticut when I was young, and being a native New Yorker, my mom liked to take me into The City at least once every couple of months. Sometimes it was shopping and a show (Broadway or Off). But we always hit up the museums. 

Lord. The museums. 

I've been to the Met, the Guggenheim, the Modern Museum of Art and the American Museum of Natural History (my favorite). I do regret not having ever been to the Ellis Island Immigration Museum, but I'll get there some day. I'd like to see my great-grandfather's entry from when he came over from Russia. 
But there are amazing museums all over the US. There are probably some fun, smaller ones near you if you can't get to the expansive famous ones. We have a museum of paratroopers at a nearby military base. The boys really like that, since they do a paratrooper demo once a year- it's pretty awesome. 

I did a little research. There are some fairly epic exhibits going on right now all over the country. You guys need to check these out. 

And then report back.

In Denver, Colorado, you can visit the Forney Museum, where you can see Amelia Earheart's car! How cool is that?
Amelia was a baller, yo.

Up in Philly, Pennsylvania, you can drop by to see the exhibit Grimm's Anatomy at the Mutter's Museum, at The College of Physicians of Philadelphia.

That looks terrifying and amazing.

If you swing out to the west coast, the J. Paul Getty Museum has a gorgeous exhibit going on right now: Florence at the Dawn of the Renaissance: paintings and illustrations.

The most romantic period of art, oh, let's think...EVER.

The School of Art Institute in Chicago has an exhibit I'd love to see. They are displaying Japanese fashion! It's called Material Translations.


And the Smithsonian in Washington DC has so many exhibits that if you spent a month there, you still probably wouldn't make it through them all! I wish I had a free weekend, though, because I'm dying to see their exhibit on the Civil War- Photography: From the Home Front to the Battlefront.

Er. No pun intended.

Our favorite local museum (I consider anything within a day's drive to be local, although this is close by) is the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. They just built a whole new wing, that totally rocks because it's very hands on. You can actually watch as they painstakingly uncover dinosaur bones or plant fossils from chunks of rock shipped in to their glass-walled labs. They have tons of areas for kids to learn about science and nature in a very organic and involved way. 

Plus, they have some pretty cool exhibits. Right now there is an exhibit on the Titanic.. My six year old really wants to see it, and so do I! It's still a fascinating subject, even after all the extensive coverage over the years. I hope we can get there soon.

How about you? Do you like museums? Find them boring? What's your favorite one? Do you have any funny or interesting stories to tell about a museum you've visited? Any museums to recommend?

Thursday, January 17, 2013

It's Been One of THOSE Weeks...

Last week was not one of my best, and it ended with my boss saying the following words to me – YOU KNOW, YOUR LIFE COULD BE A BRITISH SITCOM.

I wasn’t sure what to make of that, and I did send out a Tweet about that very thing. One of my followers replied with “At least he didn’t say your life was like an episode of Mr. Bean.” And there is that, I suppose.

I could soo live there! 
If my life was like an episode of Mr. Bean, you’d find me in some sort of asylum (and not the kind found in American Horror story because (1) that particular season takes place in 1964, not 2013 and (2) it’s an American horror series, not a British sitcom.)

But if my life is going to be like something, why can't it be like Downton Abbey? I would make an excellent dowager countess. Just ask anyone who knows me. 

But I digress…

My boss was, of course, referring to all of the insanity I dealt with in a one week period.

I'd totally rather do this than have to
endure some people's company.
MONDAY  - there was the hour and a half meeting at my son’s high school with his guidance counselor, math teacher, assistant principal, math resource, and – oh yeah – my ex husband. I’d rather have a root canal every day of the week than have to sit in a room with my ex-husband for an hour and half. I did 13 years in that particular prison. I’ve done my time thank you very much, warden. (My son wasn’t in any sort of trouble, by the way. We were dealing with why his math teacher seemed incapable or unwilling to return emails. Still not sure I'm clear on that, either.)

TUESDAY - brought the return of an old drama to my life. A while back, my youngest brother was assaulted and spent a week in the hospital recovering from his injuries.  I won’t go into all of those details because (1) it will set me off again and (2) his injuries were so traumatic, just thinking about them turns my stomach. And so on Tuesday, when I learned he’d dropped the charges against his assailant, it sent me through the roof. When someone nearly kills you and leaves you for dead, they need to put in jail. Period. They need to be off the streets to keep the rest of society safe. After listening to my tirade - which, you know, lasted FOREVER - my brother saw the error of his ways, and I’m happy to report that the charges have been reinstated. I didn't even know that was possible!

WEDNESDAY - I called work first thing that morning to tell them my freezer stopped working, but I promised I'd be in as soon as the repairman was done.

THURSDAY  -  Ah, Thursday was a good day. Thursday was my only good day. Thursday was the eye of the storm, where everything is quiet and you think it’s over. Thursday was a lie!

There's even a droplet of water that's
about to fall right here!
FRIDAY – the real fun began on Friday. I dropped my son off at high school and returned home to throw in a load of laundry before work. I noticed the laundry room floor was wet and I looked up to find the ceiling was leaking water. One plumber and one fixed toilet tank later, and I now have a slew of workmen in my house drying out the walls with big machines that make my house sound like an aircraft carrier. The bathroom floor and laundry room ceiling are both things of the past.

I don’t really understand how any of this would make for good television viewing in Britain, but if someone in London wants to pay me for my life story, I’ve got more.

This week hasn’t been any better. There’s (1) toilet in my bathtub and none of the others are working (this has something to do with the pressure from the missing toilet. I don't really understand that, but whatever.)  That's beside the point, which is...How am I supposed to live without any working bathrooms? Luckily, I have plenty of friends who’ll let me use their showers, etc. But come on!! At this rate I’ll end up in that asylum WITHOUT my life being like an episode of Mr. Bean.

The one bright spot is I’ll end up with a remodeled bathroom after this. If I can last that long.

Have you ever had one of THOSE weeks? Are you having one of THOSE weeks right now now?  If your life was a sitcom, British or otherwise, what would it be called? And what should I call mine, in case, you know - someone in London wants to pay me for my life story?