Archive for April, 2009

Reassessing the Scenery

Thursday, April 30th, 2009

I’m still working on finishing the WIP. Realized I had to go back a couple of chapters and insert another scene. Drat. Have now drafted that and am knee-deep in revisions. In the meantime, here are a couple of shots of beautiful B.C. scenery to keep you entertained.

“A Little Mountain”

bc_mountain

“A Bit ‘O Sea”

bc_pacific

Cat Paw, with Foot

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009

Call me strange, but I love this picture:

cat_paw

(Call me strange, please!)

I received a new camera for Christmas, but because I’ve been so focused on the WIP, I haven’t had much time to play with it. “Cat Paw, with Foot” is the height of my creative abilities for the moment, I’m afraid. But isn’t it cute?

I took an extended long weekend over the past few days, leaving early Friday morning with My Liege to pick up Eldest Son from university. Drove back Sunday, fell into bed from exhaustion. Yesterday, more exhaustion, as E.S. and I had to drive again, this time to a closer university, to explore his options for after he earns his B.A. I’m getting back to the WIP today, but have realized it’s probably overly ambitious to announce that I expect to be finished this week. So I won’t. Announce it, that is. And I don’t expect it, either. I’ll be more than happy to finish next week.

So, Blog Lite will continue over the next several days. Luckily, Silhouette Special Editor author Mary J. Forbes is guest blogging next Tuesday, May 5th, to help me take up the slack. And I did take some nice photos of the ferry trip to pick up E.S. If I get time, I’ll try to post some here. They were point and shoot, unlike “Cat Paw, with Foot.” But the scenery is gorgeous all the same.

Old Truck, New Truck

Friday, April 24th, 2009

Red truck, brown truck. (To steal shamelessly from Dr. Seuss).

Actually, it’s more like goldy-beige truck.

Youngest Son finally bought a new (used) truck! This means I can stop trucking him all over tarnation. I have my car to myself again! Yipsee-doodle-mongers.

He sold the old truck, an ’83 Toyota, several weeks ago. It was a standard four-cylinder 4×4 with something like 280,000 kilometers (don’t ask me to translate into miles; I’ve lost the ability). Cost him, ahem, more in repairs than it cost My Liege and I to buy it for him two years ago.

Old Truck:

red_toyota0001

This week, after several weeks of searching, enduring a very frustrating situation that nearly resulted in him buying a different vehicle under false pretenses (not his false pretenses, the seller’s), he’s now the proud owner of a ’98 Mazda automatic extended cab V6 4×4 with less than 135,000 kilometers. Purchased with all his own money, I might add. Good money (as opposed to bad money, which you are required to spank).

New Truck:

new_truck

I do have a photo of Youngest Son with the new truck, but I haven’t asked his permission to post it, so I will refrain from doing so. Good mom.

Lessons Learned Buying New Truck:

  • Always check the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number). Always, always always! Running the VIN through your provincial insurance agency (or private insurer, whatever works in your area) can tell you if the vehicle’s ever been in an accident (the VIN is a long series of numbers located on the lower left front side of the windshield or imprinted inside the driver’s door). Check the VIN before you settle on a purchase price.
  • Just because the seller of the Truck you Nearly Bought (TNB) had a former career in law enforcement and lives in your neighborhood doesn’t mean he’s incapable of forgetting that his vehicle suffered over $6000 damage in an accident five years ago. He’s even capable of not recalling the event when you straight out ask him about accidents. Twice.
  • Check the VIN before insuring the vehicle for a day to drive it to a mechanic to get it checked out. Thank God the mechanic we took Truck Nearly Bought to pointed out the overspray indicating TNB had been painted, and we needed to find out why. That’s when we, dolts that we are, finally ran the VIN and discovered the forgotten accident.
  • Don’t expect that once you’ve discovered said accident, the seller will drop his price to compensate for the cash your son laid out to insure the TNB for a day and get a mechanic to it check out.
  • Turn your back on the bad deal. It doesn’t matter how rare the little V6s are to come by in your neck of the woods. Turn. Your. Back. On. The. Bad Deal.
  • You will find another, better deal! Yippee. You will find another truck of the same year that hasn’t been in an accident and has way, way, wayyyyy fewer kilometers—for the same price. Yes, patience pays off.

Anyone have any Buying Used Vehicle Horror Stories they want to share?

Thursday Thoughts

Thursday, April 23rd, 2009

American Idol went my way last night. Phew. Was a bit stressed there that Allison Iruheta would get sent home, but in the end Anoop Desai and Lil Rounds got the boot. I must say, watching KC & The Sunshine Band perform made me feel very old! In my day, KC weren’t no grampa. 😉

How is it possible that Disco Week made me feel nostalgic for the Seventies? I didn’t like disco when it was popular. I couldn’t do any of the dance moves. Utterly uncoordinated was I. And let me just say it’s a blessing that most of the Idol contestants updated the arrangements of the songs this week. If all of them had sung the Seventies versions, I would have “Erked” my way through the entire episode.

In case you’re interested (of course you are), Adam Lambert, Danny Gokey and Allison Iruheta were my favorites this week. Even though Danny didn’t change up “September” a lot, his voice was amazing. Although, I have to ask, since when has “September” ever been considered disco? Seventies music, yes, but not disco. Disco didn’t consume the entire decade, after all. As for Adam’s performance, I felt he got a little teary-voiced for my tastes, but I still loved his song. Thought Allison was Da Bomb.

Didn’t get any writing done yesterday. Youngest Son and I had to take a journey to a neighboring town. Piccies tomorrow. Driving home alone (whatever happened to my child?), I believe I was listening to the CBC. YS is always changing my radio stations! What does it say about me that my 18-year-old listens to the CBC while I routinely tune in the Top 40? Erp. At any rate, I caught an interesting interview on Spark about a computer program called BumpTop, designed by Canadians, I believe. Anyone heard of BumpTop? Anyone use it? It’s a program that changes the way you use your PC’s desktop. Apparently makes it act more like a “real” desktop, arranging your documents in piles instead of structured filing systems. If you have a moment, check it out. I plan to, after I finish the WIP.

It’s motoring along—thanks for asking! I’m looking at a week, maybe two, until I type THE END. When I do, there’ll be much fanfare on the blog, believe me. I totally love this book, but it’s time to move on to new projects before my 2009 Goals List starts eating itself from the inside out.

What’s your news?

The Boring Parts

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

I talked about Southland yesterday, the new cop show on Thursday nights that’s replaced ER in the NBC line-up. Recently, someone mentioned to me that the problem with shows like Southland and ER is that they don’t show the boring parts, which could lead viewers to believe that cops and emergency room personnel spend their workdays consumed by adrenaline rushes. That these jobs are in fact 90% humdrum and 10% exciting, and those low points should be shown. Not just in the characters’ off-hours, but during their workdays as well.

This got me to thinking about the boring parts in fiction. One of the primary “rules” (okay, okay, guidelines) for writing novels is to leave out the boring parts (or strive to—I guess it’s a matter of perception). Readers’ eyes glaze over the boring parts, and when readers eyes glaze over, books get put down. We don’t want readers to fall asleep reading our books, so we skip writing the boring parts. Instead of “showing” (writing) the character eating, bathing, getting dressed, having a going-nowhere conversation with the grocery store bagger (hi, how are you, weather’s fine, don’t put the eggs on the bottom of my shopping cart. While you’re at it, don’t put my bread on the bottom, either. Are you listening? DON’T. PUT. EGGS. OR. BREAD. IN BOTTOMOFBLEEPINGCART and stackthreecasesofCoke on top. Never-freaking-ever. All right????)

Um, sorry.

You get what I’m saying, though? Unless the conversation furthers the story somehow (like sets the reader up for the possibilty that the bagger might wake up the next morning six feet under with cart wheels all over his face—and no one’s left him a little bell to ring to alert the gravediggers that he’s still alive either, heh heh), it doesn’t belong in the book. It’s boring.

Think of the movies that have put you to sleep. Likely, they’re packed with boring parts, too. The same holds true for TV. Showing the boring parts might be more realistic, but would viewers tune in? I think not.

(Quick quiz, how many people reading this are still awake?)

Castle, Yes or No?

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

Anyone watching Castle? I started watching it and liked it. But I don’t usually watch cop shows (okay, Castle’s a writer, but he works with a cop in this series), so the format—opening with the murder, then they solve it—grew a bit tiresome. Although, I must say, I love the characters, Castle and his mom in particular. Kate Beckett, the detective with whom he verbally spars, I’m not as sold on.

Two weeks ago, the DVR glitched and the episode didn’t record. I realized I didn’t miss it. Last week, the episode recorded, but I grew bored watching it and deleted halfway through. Then I discovered that Lee Lofland, a member of one of my writing lists and author of Police Procedure and Investigation (great reference book), is reviewing Castle each week on his blog, The Graveyard Shift. Okay, now I have a great reason to start watching again.

I’ve been meaning to plug Lee’s blog for some time now. If you write mysteries or romance mysteries or romantic suspense, check it out.

Lee watches Castle each week, then corrects the procedure mistakes in his blog. Here’s the entry for last night’s episode, and here’s the link for the Archived reviews of the previous episodes. (The review for last night’s episode is at the top of the Archive listing, last week’s is next, and then you’ll have to hit the Older Entries link to get reviews to earlier episodes).

If you read the reviews, you’ll quickly realize that Lee spots tons of errors in the writing of this show. An excellent resource and opportunity for learning.

Okay, how about Southland? Anyone watching that? I’ve watched the first two episodes and am intrigued enough to keep checking in. Yes, the episodes follow a pattern so far, just like Castle does. In the case of Southland, the first two episodes opened with a scene from the ending, then started from the beginning and worked their way back to the ending. I don’t mind this technique, but if done every time, again, it will grow tiresome for me. I have no idea if Southland portrays the police accurately or not. Wish that I could find a review of Southland each week on Lee’s blog (hint, hint, Lee). (P.S. If you’re already doing the reviews, let me know where to find them; my time is short these days).

Anyone remember Annie from Men in Trees? She’s in Southland. Totally different character. She’s great to watch.

Let’s Talk AI

Friday, April 17th, 2009

American Idol, that is. Do you watch it? What did you think of this week’s show?

If you’ve watched American Idol before, but haven’t been watching this year, they have a new thingie this season called The Judges’ Save. There’s ONE opportunity in the entire season for the judges to decide to save a singer America has voted out.

This week, the judges used The Judges’ Save on Matt Giraud. I was glad they did. There was only one week remaining to use the Save, and Matt is a talented singer. The only thing that bothers me now is what if next week talents like Adam Lambert and Danny Gokey get voted into the bottom 2? Erk. Next week 2 singers will get ousted to make up for no one being turfed this week. Remember when Chris Daughtry was in the bottom 2? The Judges’ Save didn’t exist, and he was booted off. Erk. Yes, it could happen again.

I do think Matt’s deserving, though. My fav this season is Adam Lambert, with Danny Gokey running a close second, sometimes running a tie. I went into the season with Danny as my fav, because of his back story (his wife died shortly before he auditioned). I can’t remember seeing anything about Adam until his first performance post-auditions. He blew me away, and he’s been blowing me away ever since. Shades of Freddie Mercury, anyone?

I also love Alison Iraheta. Her voice reminds me of the Canadian band, Heart (which I had the privilege to hear perform when I was far too young to appreciate it).

After Alison, I’m a Matt fan.

Kris Allen…I just don’t know about this guy. I can’t deny he’s a talented singer, but his performances don’t grab me. Is anyone out there a Kris Allen Must Win! type of fan? Because, despite how the judges seem to love him, I’m not getting it.

Anoop Desai and Lil Rounds…I really thought Lil would go this week. She came out super strong in the beginning rounds, but seems to have floundered ever since. And Anoop—another great voice, especially the last couple of weeks, but I can’t see him lasting longer than Adam, Danny, Alison or Matt. We shall see.

The thing about Anoop and also Matt is that the judges have already saved them each once. Both were members of the Wild Card trio. The public had already voted them off the show, but the judges brought them back to make up the Final 12. So, when the public voted Matt off the show a second time, should the judges have used the Save to keep him? Aren’t they ignoring the public by bringing him back twice?

I think they made the right choice, but it will definitely be interesting to see what happens next week.

Oh, in case you’ve been living under an Internet rock and haven’t see the clip of Susan Boyle from Britain’s Got Talent yet, wander on over to YouTube and take a boo. The look on Simon Cowell’s face is priceless.

MetaWhat?

Thursday, April 16th, 2009

In case you missed the Amazon brouhaha over the long weekend, you can read about it here. The Twitter nation got involved, and Dear Author also raised a commotion. A little entity called The New York Times chimed in, too.

Penny’s books were affected, although they’re appearing again now, sales ranking intact. (Hint, the first link leads to Penny’s first book, the second link to the second). If you’d like to increase Penny’s sales ranking in protest against the “glitch,” be my guest! (Hint, purchasing the volumes increases the rankings).

Frankly, the entire episode ranked. However, for many book buyers (like those who live in the boonies), Amazon and entities like it are the only option. Yeah, there’s Barnes and Noble…if you’re American. In Canada, we have Chapters and Amazon.ca. I order from Chapters when I can, but they don’t have as big a selection as Amazon.ca. Chapters doesn’t carry Penny’s books. Neither Chapters nor Amazon.ca carries my books. If you want the paperbacks, Amazon State-side is the only game in town.

What do you think about the brouhaha? Did you buy the “glitch”?

Welcome Guest Blogger Vanessa Kelly

Wednesday, April 15th, 2009

WHY I LOVE THE REGENCYkelly_pic2

I write sensual, Regency-set historical romances—and I’m not the only one!  Take a look at any bestseller list and you’ll see lots of Regency authors like Mary Balogh, Eloisa James, and Stephanie Laurens topping the list.  The competition is fierce, and there are so many terrifyingly good historical authors out there, you have to wonder why anyone would be fool enough to attempt to break into their ranks.  Fortunately for me, readers love the Regency period, and are loyal and voracious consumers of romances set in this fascinating period.

So what is it, exactly, that we love about the Regency?  There are some obvious answers, of course.  The glamour, for one.  Aristocrats of the time loved to party, and party large.  The clothes were elegant, the soirees elaborate, and the conversation devastatingly witty.  And when the wealthy weren’t racing from one ball to the next in the city, they were hosting large kelly_marquessgatherings at their country estates, where they hunted, feasted, gambled, made love, and generally had a great time until the wee hours of the morn.  These settings are like gold to the writer, providing all kinds of opportunities for color, drama, and comedy amidst the social whirl of the ton.

The Regency was also populated with fascinating characters like The Prince Regent, Beau Brummell, Harriett Wilson, Byron and Caro Lamb, Lady Jersey and the other aristocratic hostesses who dictated the social rules governing high society.  These figures often people the novels of Regency romance, and provide fascinating authenticity to the period we love so much.

But underneath all that opulence and splendour lived another England—one that was violent and dark, and suffered all the evils of poverty and a society on the verge of massive change.  For the Regency author, this gothic underworld is a rich source of dramatic conflict.  It’s especially interesting to explore the subtleties of class distinctions that make English society so unique.  And what better way to do this than by creating a hero and heroine separated from each other by social class and wealth.  Those were huge barriers back in the early nineteenth-century, ones we have trouble imagining today, and it’s so much fun—as a writer—to explore those differences. 

I came to my love of Regency romance like many readers of the genre—by falling in love with the novels of Jane Austen.  So much so, that I went on to study English literature of the Regency period in graduate school.  I specialized in the novels of Fanny Burney, and studied the theme of madness in her books.  Years later, that theme was still rattling around in my head, and when I started writing my own Regency romance, madhouses and conniving relatives, and dastardly villains soon made their way into my book.

MASTERING THE MARQUESS is the story of a woman intent on saving her little sister from incarceration in an insane asylum.  My heroine, Meredith, turns for help to the Marquess of Silverton, a man above her class, and arrogant and powerful to boot.  Meredith has always led a sheltered life in the country, but she soon finds herself thrown into the unfamiliar and bewildering world of London’s high society.  Add in the madhouse and the villains, along with the social snobs, and you have a romance that combines the glittering elegance of the Regency ton with the dark underworld of the Gothic.

So, dear readers, what do you think?  What is it about that Regency that fascinates us so much, and makes it such a great period to read and write about?

***

Leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of MASTERING THE MARQUESS. Entries accepted until midnight, PST.

To read Vanessa’s bio and the back cover blurb for MASTERING THE MARQUESS, please see yesterday’s post.

To learn more about Vanessa and her upcoming books, please visit her website.

Vanessa Kelly Guest Blogging Tomorrow!

Tuesday, April 14th, 2009

I hope everyone had a fantastic long weekend. I’m still focusing on finishing my WIP, so isn’t it fortunate that I have a talented guest blogger and book give-away happening tomorrow? Debut Regency historical romance author, Vanessa Kelly, will talk about why she loves the regency period and will give away a copy of her April release, MASTERING THE MARQUESS, which, naturally, is set in the regency period. Yes, all you history buffs, you can start salivating…now.

Back Cover Copy for MASTERING THE MARQUESS:

Since the loss of her parents, Meredith Burnley has contented herself with a solitary life looking after her half-sister, Annabel.  But Meredith’s peace is shattered when her uncle schemes to marry her off to his son in order to gain her inheritance.  Desperate, Meredith has only one choice:  to flee with Annabel to their estranged grandparents’ home.  But their arrival soon reignites a family scandal—and kindles unexpected romance…

Happily reunited with the girls, Annabel’s grandmother resolves to convince her nephew, Stephen Mallory, the Marquess of Silverton, to abandon his rakish lifestyle and wed Annabel.  Stephen is clearly captivated—but with the wrong sister.  Determined to make Meredith his own, Stephen embarks on a seduction that will leave her with no choice but to surrender to his touch…

That naughty, naughty Stephen.

Tomorrow, please leave a comment to enter to win a paperback copy of MASTERING THE MARQUESS. Entries be accepted until midnight, April 15th, Pacific Standard Time.

About Vanessa:kelly_pic

Vanessa Kelly was born and raised in New Jersey, but eventually migrated north to Canada.  She holds a Master’s Degree from Rutgers University, and went on to attend the Ph.D. program in English Literature at the University of Toronto.  Alas, she didn’t finish her degree, but she did spend many happy hours studying the works of 18th century British authors and writing about the madness of King George III.  She left graduate school to work as a researcher and writer for a large public sector organization.  Vanessa now devotes her time to writing historical romance, and hopes that her readers will find her books as much fun to read as they were to write.  She currently lives with her husband in Ottawa.  You can visit her on the web at www.vanessakellyauthor.com.