Writing Into the Past with Author Calisa Rhose

I’m so excited to be here Joanna! I often wondered if…no, when this day would come for me. Celebrating my first book release. Thank you for hosting me on my HOME blog tour!

You’re so welcome, Calisa. Thrilled to have you. Among the things I love best about writing and social networking are the wonderful online friends I’ve made. And I guess the cyber-world has it’s ‘small’ moments too. Calisa and the very sweet Anna Kittrell (whom I hosted earlier this year—read that post here) work as critique partners so we’re all sort of friends together.

Before I get to the reason I’m here I want to wish Joanna- or rather her book, NO MATTER WHY, a happy 2nd release day anniversary!

Thanks for the reminder, Calisa. My TWRP release date was January 15, 2009, but friends started buying right about December 9, 2008. (How cool. On Donny Osmond’s birthday no less. Is there a connection, lol?)

       

OMG, I LOVE!!!! your cover. Perfect colors–it simply breathes! Congratulations on having achieved that oh-so-exciting-and-life-changing-milestone in your writing journey! Tell us how HOME came about:

There were several challenges for me while writing this story of hope and finding what’s always been right under your nose. My daddy always said sometimes we can’t see the forest for the trees. In HOME that was certainly true.

BLURB:  What could a gypsy and a Vietnam veteran have in common?

Silvertown’s outcast, Poppy Tippen, has loved football hero Sam “The Force” Callahan forever. But he never seemed to know she was alive. Now he’s home from the war and she suddenly finds herself comforting him from the demons of “that damn war.” Is his attention merely an escape from the haunting nightmares? Or does she hold the interest of the only man she’s ever truly loved?

Sam Callahan’s only solace from the war nightmares wrecking his life comes in the unlikely form of a gypsy girl with stigmas of her own. He’s known Poppy his entire life, but there’s something different about her now. Something special he desperately wants to hold on to. Can he convince her she’s the only thing he needs to put the past behind him?

When this story presented itself to me I was stunned by the deep need to tell a story set in theVietnamera. That alone was a challenge. I typically write contemporary, whether western or paranormal romance. HOME is my first attempt at historical. Sure I lived in the 60’s but I was a tiny tot. I don’t remember much of those years past my own front step on theMojave desertin centralCalifornia.

The other challenge? I write full length novels. My typical story is upwards of 55,000 words. HOME is just 21,000. Yikes! How am I supposed to get everything about these two characters into less than half a book? And did I cut it with the historical part? I’ll let you read HOME when it comes out next Wednesday, December 28th, and judge for yourself how I did with these challenges.

For now I would like to talk about how I managed to write something I wasn’t accustomed to.  HOME is set in August,1967 ina small, fictional town inOklahoma. I don’t do a lot of research for my contemporaries, and slightly more for my paranormals. But for HOME I spent a lot of time going back to the 1960’s life styles, clothing and music.

Music. It plays a large part in my writing. I listen to what suits the story theme, whether it’s cowboys, wolves or days of war and protests. So I loaded up on popular songs from the sixties and wrote. I didn’t use the music to fit scenes exactly. I had trouble putting myself in the era. Music from the Beatles, Elvis and my heroine’s favorite, the Chiffons helped me get into that time frame mentally. There’s just something about that time and the music that draws you in. Have you watched GREASE lately? Though set a little before my story, much of the music is the same. Bonnie and Clyde debuted in fall of that year, too.

One thing I had to do, and didn’t enjoy as much, was research the main topic of those days; the Vietnam war.

Sam Callahan was sent to the front lines as a doctor. For three years he watched young boys die, and being much older than the average soldier at twenty-seven, he had to accept that he couldn’t save them all. Hard to do for a man who was raised to believe there was nothing he couldn’t do.

I read so many horror stories while learning what would impact Sam once he returned home. PTSD which was called shell shock back then was his biggest damage. He would relive those years ‘over there’ with no reprieve. Until he met Poppy.

Poppy Tippen was a treat to write. Full of pep and vinegar as my gramma called it, she wouldn’t take no for an answer when it came to Sam. She loved him unconditionally. But how does a gypsy fit into the 60’s? It was a time of more wives’ tales than curses and boogeyman. So how did the curse of a doll affect these two? I’ll let you read to learn that, but I will say that my Poppy was a modern gypsy woman.

(Here’s an excerpt!)

Get HOME at The Wild Rose Press when it releases on December 28th. Consequently- I’d love for you to buy my book that day. Why? It’s my birthday! What a wonderful gift for me!

Psst: Calisa’s buy link came in early; you can buy her book here! I’m sure many of you have reader friends out there who might just love this very special debut love story!

You can find me at my website, and on my blog on the same site in the Chit-chat tab. I love to hear from you so feel free to shoot me a note in the Say Hey tab. I’d also love it if you follow me on Twitter and friend me on Facebook.

If you missed the official tour Kick-off post earlier this week, you can do it now at my blog, Pen of the Dreamer. I’ll wait. Back? And that’s how HOME came to be.

I had a wonderful time here, Joanna!

Always a pleasure to connect with you, Calisa! Really looking forward to this release! Remember friends, December 28, 2011 at The Wild Rose Press!

 Thanks to all of you who stopped in! Until next time,

Joanna

Diane Lang Counts Her Blessings

Happy Monday after Thanksgiving, friends. Courtesy of my great friend, life coach and counselor Diane Lang, and as we re-settle into the ‘normal’ that goes along with this busiest time of the calendar year, please allow me to slow down a second and share these wonderful reminders of what  brings true peace to my heart.

As always, Diane, I thank you for passing these on:

This list is just a reminder of all the abundance we have in our lives at any moment. This is a reminder to live in the here and now. We are our happiest when we live in the moment. This is a start of a list of all we have to be Thankful for. Keep adding in all your blessings.

1.  The clear sky with its bright blue coloring

2.  The sun shining

3.  The warmth that I feel on my skin on this sunny beautiful day

4.  The breeze that cooled me off

5.  The green grass that feels cool on my feet

6.  The beautiful surroundings that make me smile every time I look around me

7.  A sense of higher power: looking around at all this beauty there has to be something bigger than us

8  My adorable 12-year-old golden retriever who doesn’t seem to realize he is aging while he nudges me with his ball

9.  The local libraries that offer me free books, movies and magazines which I took advantage of on this beautiful, lazy day

10. The ability to read my books and use my creativity and imagination to a get a full view of the characters and the story I’m reading. There is nothing like visualizing!

11.  The freedom to choose what I want to do with my time and my life. I’m lucky to have the freedom to take the day off and enjoy it the way I please

12.   The ability to change my perspective at any time. I have the ability to see the glass half full or empty – I choose full!

13.  The ability to laugh and smile

14.  The ability to enjoy my family and friends.

15.  To give and receive love

16.  The wonderful food on my dinning room table that I can share with my friends and family.

   Give yourself and/or a friend the gift of balance: Order Diane’s book, Creating Balance and Finding Happiness (available only in print).

Diane Lang, MA    Positive Living Expert/Educator   www.dlcounseling.com

Thanks so much, Diane. Looking forward to posting your ‘updated list’ next week!

And, as always, I thank all of you for stopping by.

Have a great day,

Joanna

Veggie Pizza: Fresh and Homemade!

Happy Friday, everyone. Haven’t shared a recipe in a while so why not today?

Had some friends over for pizza the other day. Since I’m spoiled by the thin delicious crust I get whenever I buy dough at my neighborhood’s bakery, I always make it fresh. Given the oversized, granite-topped peninsula I now have—courtesy, in part, to an angel; topic for another blog—rolling out a plain pie and getting it into the oven is ten-minute-or-less deal. And inhaling the aroma of fresh pizza in a cozy-warm kitchen with friends perched on stools on the opposite side of the counter chatting while I assemble the pie has its place too.

Those of you who’ve been to my recipe pages (here and at my website) know cooking is not necessarily my favorite pastime. BUT: if I must or choose to I like to get a little creative and have some fun! So here is something I threw together when my friends were over—just because (and just because I remembered that years ago I used to fancy up pre-made crusts this way to change things up at the family dinner table).

Equipment you’ll need:

Round or square or rectangular pizza pan/cookie sheet (~16-inch)

Rolling pin

Cooking spray or extra oil to coat bottom of pan

Latex or food-prep gloves—optional. I use those with a snug fit b/c I wash my hands a gazillion times while I cook. (I wash as if the gloves were my skin; keeps my skin from falling off, lol.) Also handy is one of those long-handled pizza sheets the pizzeria guys use. A friend got me one. Comes in handy when you transfer the pie to or from the oven rack.)

Ingredients, depending on your tastes, of course. Add or delete at will! 

One whole wheat or white flour pizza dough (*See below.)

Olive oil (enough to coat bottom of pie once you’ve rolled it out—sorry folks, I only measure when I have to)

White or whole wheat flour (either is fine)

Oregano/Salt/pepper/garlic powder/red pepper flakes (to taste)

Fresh tomato slices

One large fresh bell pepper, cut into strips or chopped into pieces roughly half-inch square (depends on how soft you like them on your pie—smaller pieces cook faster)

One onion, thinly sliced

Fresh mushrooms (rinsed, dried, buttons and stems)

Pitted black olives (or any kind you like)

Shredded mozzarella cheese

Grated parmesan

Thinly-cut pepperoni slices (available pre-cut at market or by the pound at your nearest deli)

Fresh basil leaves cut into strips or small jar of green pesto

Preheat oven to 425˚F. (If you have a speed-bake or convection feature, your cooking times will be at least five minutes less.)

Spray pizza pan with cooking spray or coat with oil. (This step is particularly important if you plan on transferring pie to oven rack.)

Make sure dough is at least room temperature before you roll it out. I usually buy it in the morning and let it sit out all day. It will expand a bit in the plastic bag. You can also place it in a bowl, rub olive oil over it and cover it with a cloth before letting it sit. (Little flavor boost from the oil with that move.)

Dust your working surface and rolling pin with flour. Place the dough on the surface, using your hands to coat it with more flour. Roll it out to fit your pan. (One pound of dough makes a perfectly thin 16-inch pie.) Carefully lift dough from the surface and place on pan, tweaking it to fit. If you rolled it bigger than the pan just fold the edge over. If it’s way too big, cut it to size with utility shears. (**See note below.)

Pour at least 2 tbsp of oil onto crust and spread to coat the entire surface. Add more as needed. (If you’re using pesto, you can coat the entire crust in place of the oil and seasonings. Serious flavor-yum when you do that.)

Season the crust with any/all of the seasonings listed above. (You can mix them together up front or add them to the oil before you spread it on the crust).

Arrange cut-up vegetables and pepperoni. Sprinkle with grated cheese and/or mozzarella (you won’t need as much cheese as if you were making a plain pie).

Garnish with basil leaves. (If using pesto, you can eliminate this step.)

Bake in oven for 10-13 minutes. If you want an extra crisp crust, transfer pie onto the oven rack for at about 5 minutes more, or until done to your taste. (If you have a perforated pie pan—i.e., the one dotted with holes—skip this step.) Using a pot holder, carefully slide the pizza pan under the pie—assuming you don’t have the long-handled pizza tool—and remove from oven.

Allow to set a minute or two then cut into slices. Since my pizza cutter isn’t the best, I’ll score it with the rotary cutter then cut all the way through with scissors.

So there you have it! (The one on the right represents the recipe I just posted. :))

Seems like a lot of steps but once you have them down, making your own pizza is easy, more filling and so much tastier than those from the pizzeria. (Much cheaper too, as in about half the price of take-out. (I’ll put up my plain-pie recipe next week.)

*Most bread bakeries sell dough in one-pound bags; the white flour variety—possibly the wheat too—is available frozen at the supermarket. (I’m too lazy to make my own. Two more options: pre-made pizza crust from the bread aisle at the supermarket; making your own from Bisquick or a similar baking mix. Haven’t tried the Bisquick way yet. Will be sure to let you know if I do.)

**Rolling pizza dough does take some practice. Don’t get discouraged. If you need to, you can flip it once and continue rolling. Too much flipping results in a tough crust. Also, each piece of dough handles differently. Some rebound while others hold their shape better. (Next week we’ll go a little simpler with a plain pie!)

Have a great weekend. Let me know how you make out!

Joanna

Gray Matter–Amazing!

Happy Tuesday, friends! Hope those of you ravaged by Saturday’s surprise of a snowstorm have gotten back power or will be back in the light real soon. Was very blessed here. My heart and prayers go out to those of you who are seriously inconvenienced by Mother Nature and the havoc she’s wreaked these past months.

So there is what my entire town looks like. Wow. (Photo courtesy of my son–thank you! :))

But…

Quiet time comes in unexpected ways, people. My mom was sick over the weekend, so I did a couple of overnighters at her home. Thoroughly enjoyed the peace while she slept. (Aren’t I a wonderful daughter, lol? And there were teens at my house. ‘Nough said.)

Okay, this post is kind of out of left field, or some remote place in my head that always gets flumgubbered (LOVE THAT WORD ) whenever I get an opportunity to note how awesomely the gray matter works. Stop for a second. Think about how incredible it is that these images and thoughts we have—abstract entities unto themselves—are rooted in a physical, biochemical process that has its own agenda. (Of course there is a case-in-point coming. Would I disappoint those who look forward to my illustration of every point?)

On a recent Sunday, hubby and I went to a nearby pumpkin farm, just to chill and spend some time out on a gorgeous fall day. While we walked I recognized a man I couldn’t place. I heard his voice in my head but couldn’t put words to it. He appeared to be with family and I felt as if I’d be intruding by going up to him only to ask: “How do I know you?” The entire time I was there, I kept looking for him but I gave up and let it go. My normal work week ensued.

Thursday of that same week, I took my mom to her cardiologist’s appointment. No sooner had I turned the car into the lot when my brain instantly visualized the man at the pumpkin farm. “That was Doctor ______!” my mind said.

Amazing the connections the psyche makes all on its own, right? How it stores information and retrieves it when the circumstances are just right and just so. (Back to being flumgubbered.) Can’t imagine only I’ve lived such experiences. Who will be first to share?

(Now why can’t I just spew out chapters the way some of these posts spill out of me? Just sayin…)

My fresh-fixins’ (almost) homemade pizza recipe–look for it Thursday or Friday of this week!

Inspiration to all of you writers taking on the NaNoWriMo challenge; may the words be with you!

TTFN,

Joanna

Ten Year Wake-Up Call–Or Not? (Part One)

Happy Tuesday everyone. Hope you all had a great weekend and are in place and geared up to get through another one.

Quick note before I continue: this post was originally slated to run a month or so ago. Because September wound up being a fairly busy time with school starting, I’m running this essay exactly as I wrote it and keeping the tenses to reflect my thoughts the day I jotted them down. Thank you for your patience and indulgence. 🙂

 (AP Photo/WTC Memorial Foundation, LMDC,HO)

I write this post on the tenth anniversary of the day Americans—and possibly most of the world—refer to as 9/11. For days I’ve been bombarded with pictures, news articles and television coverage of the tragedy that befellNew York City’s lower Manhattan area that morning. Over and over one thought kept crowding out all the others:

Ten years have come and gone.

Please note I speak only for myself as I share this. There’s something about that decade mark that makes me stop and note how quickly such an expanse of time elapses seemingly without notice. I don’t think I look all that different. As a whole, I don’t think I feel very different either. To date I’m blessed in pretty much any aspect of my life I can name.

Some changes I have no choice but to see: hubby’s hair was probably more pepper than salt. My son, who on the morning ofSeptember 11, 2001was attending his fourth or fifth day of preschool, presently attended his third day of high school. My other son (pushing age three on 9/11) wasn’t in school then and is now in his second year of middle school. Along the way, I’ve been married close to seventeen years. Somehow, I spent those days in relatively the same manner while years slid by. Only the annual markings of time—New Year’s, birthdays, etc—reminded me how quickly time moves.

I don’t want to be long-winded. (Yes, those who know me well are chuckling, smirking and/or rolling their eyes. Be careful: those orbs might get stuck up there. J) This morning, though, I watched some of the televised ceremonies and tributes. As I watched water flow into the footprints of theTwinTowersI was amazed that ten years passed and I’ve never once visited the site. (I live close enough that a trip into the city shouldn’t be a major affair.) Today also reminds me how annoyed at myself I was then that I’d never put my boys on the Staten Island Ferry to see the Statue of Liberty and then watch the lower end of Manhattan loom small into tall as the ferry pulled into port. (Watching the towers get taller and taller as we got closer on the ferry was always one of my favorite parts of that ride. Who would have thunk those hulking rectangles that stretched into the sky wouldn’t be there forever? At least I can see the tower lights from my house. I make sure to go outside every year and spend some time looking and reflecting.)

So much for being long-winded. I had another point to share but I’ve gone on too long here. (Besides, I thought of another take on that point and will expand on it in the next post, scheduled to run on Thursday of this week.) Thanks so much for staying with me.

Until Thursday,

Joanna

Potential Power of Twitter–Part 2

Good day, friends!

Last time I shared a story about the time some friends and I wound up lost while driving to a women’s retreat. (You can read that post here.) Today I’ll tie that into:

The Incredible, Potential Power of Twitter

Yes, I wrote that title—and mean it. Would never have happened a year ago, I promise. I couldn’t be bothered being a part of this monster of a social media tool, nor did I have any desire to learn about it so that I could be. Then I happened on Kristen Lamb’s blog. Then I cracked and bought her bestseller, We Are Not Alone: The Writer’s Guide to Social Media—WANA, from here on and the best $4.99 I’ve spent in some time. Read my thoughts on it here. Those thoughts got me a request to write a short article for Author-Me’s monthly newsletter

Knock-knock: Are you starting to get an idea of how this works?

These days you’ll find me hanging out here, on Facebook and yes, Twitter. Do I absolutely love any of Kristen’s recommended three? Not necessarily, but I love people and enjoy making online friends and connections and learning more than I ever imagined I could via all the blogs I find via the three venues. (Kristen’s weekly mash-up of awesomeness—a.k.a. blogs—could keep me reading all day, and since January of this year, I swear I’ve gained an education in social media and self-publishing from blogs alone. And all for the cost of what? Internet access and whatever time I’m willing to put into it.)

Sorry. Sidetracked. Back to business!

So what sets Twitter apart? Doesn’t take that much time as a tweeter to figure out how powerful a tool this is. I will, however, state it’s much easier to see the potential once you’re using Tweetdeck, Hootsuite or similar personal browser created to organize and manage the hundreds and probably thousands of tweets headed your way alone on a daily basis. (Depends on your following as well as your ability to create/maintain online relationships. Oh, and don’t expect to be able to read and/or respond to every message once you’re ‘established.’ Twitter interactions happen pretty much in a ‘real time’ manner: about ninety minutes (assuming you’re using a personal browser and based on how busy a particular column is—more about this later) before you ‘missed’ a tweet, or more realistically, a slew of them.

Okay, writing about this is getting bigger than I can handle, so I’ll stick to what, IMHO, are the keys to what makes Twitter so amazing: simplicity and inherent exponential potential.

Simplicity: One-hundred-forty characters to get a thought across AND get it onto the screens of x-number of fellow tweeps. At first I thought, what’s the point of just that tiny window? Now I realize a side benefit: teaching me to edit and keep what I say succinct and direct. (Only the most important words here.)

Inherent exponential potential: Concept=simple. Potential power: beyond believable and in need of a few sentences to do it justice. When you tweet, write your message but spare some characters. You’ll use those spaces to create a hashtag: the pound sign/symbol (#) followed by pretty much any word you want. Think in terms of tags or keywords.

Example: If I’m tweeting about US Open tennis, I’ll add #usopen, #tennis, #rafaelnadal or something along those lines. The Twitter monster makes sure that anyone who has a Tweetdeck column dedicated to any or all of those (or similar) hashtags will see my tweet. Now do you get an idea of how many potential people you can reach with only one-hundred-forty characters? (And that doesn’t include retweets, folks—messages you ‘repeat’ to all your followers with a single click.) Honestly, I am boggled—better yet: flum-gubbered—every time I think about this.

I’ll stop here—think I overwhelmed myself—before I give you too much to take in. (Something tells me I’ll be exploring this topic again.) Please feel free to shoot out questions: here, or at my Facebook and/or Twitter pages.

Don’t forget: A critique of up to 10 pages of your work-in-progress or completed manuscript is still up for grabs at the end of this week. Leave a comment for your chance to win!

Until next time,

Joanna

Steph Burkhart Steps into the Bloglight!

Hello everyone, 

Hope today finds you all well and revving up to deal with the day-to-day! We’ve got a visit from paranormal romance author Steph Burkhart!

STEPH: First, I’d like to thank Joanna for having me here today. I’ve been in my writing cave all summer, slaving over my projects and I’ve just now found some time to peep out. Feels good to have a little autumn chill on my cheeks. I love blogging and hanging out on the web. You can find me at: http://www.stephanieburkhart.com

JOANNA: What do you love best about writing?

STEPH: Writing stimulates my creativity and imagination. I enjoy researching different settings and topics. Writing is like taking an adventure without ever having to leave your seat.

JOANNA: What got you started writing?

STEPH: I remember growing up as a young girl in the 1970’s and watching a show called The Electric Company. I loved the Spiderman skit. After watching the show, I went to the kitchen table and would draw comic books of the skits. My passion for writing evolved from that.

JOANNA: Where do you get story and character ideas?

STEPH: Believe it or not, NOT from dreams. I’m a very heavy sleeper since I don’t get much, and rarely do I remember my dreams. Most of my characters and stories start with a broad concept. For “Victorian Scoundrel,” my steampunk romance, my broad concept was: heroine travels through time to stop her mischief making cousin from changing the time line. From there I built on that, creating Alice and Edmund Windsor, my royals from the future. Then I did research on Queen Victoria, Prince Albert, the Great Exhibition, Sir John Russell, and dirigibles. Since this was a steampunk I crafted several “fun” gadgets such as transmogrifiers, datamancers, and whuzzies. Alice needed a hero so enter Earl Swinton, Grayson Kentfield, the Prime Minister’s friend. The research was fun and allowed me to tap into my imagination. Then it was time to character build. Using bios, I fleshed out my characters, even casting them like the book was a movie.

This process usually takes 1-2 to weeks for me to flesh out before I can start writing.

JOANNA: Wow. I think I need a glossary to make sense of all the terms. I’m also impressed with your process at crafting the characters. Now, please tell our readers how you juggle, work, and being a mom.

STEPH: This is a balancing act, trust me. I am a 911 dispatcher for LAPD and I work from2 pmto10 pm. When I’m writing, the bulk of my writing is done at work during my down time, putting pen to paper. This way when I get home, all I do is type. After I get the boys off to school, I’ve got the morning to myself. I usually do my promo during that time, visiting Twitter, Facebook, and my Yahoo Groups. After that, I type. Then its off to work to write some more. The evenings are usually dedicated to the kids on my off days.

JOANNA: Talk about current, past, and future projects and upcoming releases.

STEPH: I love the romance genre because romance speaks to hope and love which are very uplifting topics. That said, I enjoy writing paranormal, contemporary, and steampunk. I also have a children’s book out called “The Giving Meadow.” I’m attracted to vintage romance as well, but while I love reading historicals, I find them quite daunting to write.

  In FEB 2011, my paranormal romance, The Count’s Lair, was released. (The novel is Book2 inmy Budapest Moon series.) Set in Budapest, Hungary, Count Anton Varga has a secret – he’s a werewolf. He’s also attracted to the beautiful and talented pianist, Lady Amelia Andrassy. Can Amelia accept him for what he is? There’s plenty of werewolves and witches in the story andBudapestserves as an exotic and believable setting for the story.

Releasing in NOV 2011, is Book 3 of the Budapest Moon Series, “Danubein Candlelight.” It’s set inBudapest, 1922 just after the end of World War I. Morgan Duma is returning home after a stay inEnglandand is reunited with her childhood friend, Adam Varga. When friendship turns to love, the couple’s resolve is tested when Morgan is transformed into a werewolf.

Releasing in DEC 2011 is my contemporary romantic suspense, “The Faberge Secret.” Elise Goodwin runs a heritage museum inBrattleboro,Vermont. When she finds a rare Faberge Egg, its up to Russian businessman Dimitri Romanov to keep her safe from his rival.

Let me share an excerpt with you from my latest release, Victorian Scoundrel.

BLURB: When Alice travels back in time to keep her cousin, Edmund, out of trouble, she has no idea the mischief she’s in for!

Check out my BOOK TEASER ON YOU TUBE 🙂

Buy on AMAZON KINDLEALL ROMANCE EBOOKSBARNES & NOBLE (NOOK BOOK)

REVIEWS: 5 Stars, Readers Favorites, Molly E:

I have never read a Steam Punk novel before, but because of (Steph Burkhart’s) fantastic writing, her engaging plot line, and fun loving characters, it will NOT be the last. I highly recommend this with highest of 5 stars, and I can’t wait until the second Windsor Diaries installment releases!

5 Stars, Tami Dee, Author of the Mists of Time Series: Stephanie Burkhart has a fresh, quick, quirky, inventive imagination and she gives the readers of Victorian Scoundrel a delightful mixture of all of the above!

Pen & The Muse, Barbara: A wonderful historical, paranormal steampunk read this was. This new series is going to be a big hit.  She has me hooked.  This is a must read.

  EXCERPT: Grayson escorted her to a door on the right, threw it open, and put his hand on her waist, guiding her inside. A gas lamp burned on a nearby table, throwing stark, deep shadows into the room.

Her determined man shut the door and pinned her against it. He plucked her glasses from her face and threw them onto the table with the gas lamp. Then he pinned her against the door, placing his hands on the door next to her arms. His breathing was erratic. The light from the lamp cast dark shadows over his chiseled features.

“Gray–”

He stepped closer and lowered his hands, placing one on her waist. Heat spiked within her and settled low in her abdomen. His hazel eyes burned with desire. He drew in a deep breath and raised his forefinger, tracing her lips.Alice closed her eyes, but only briefly, savoring the gentle touch of his finger.

“You do wild things to my heart, sweet Alice,” he finally whispered. His finger traced her cheeks, then her jaw.

She grew hot, yearning for more. Her senses spun from his sensual touch. She could hardly breathe. “Me?”

“Yes, you.”

“What do I do to your heart?”

“You make it beat hard — fast.” He ran his finger down the side of her neck and traced the ‘v’ in her throat.

Alice met the raging inferno in his eyes and nipped at her lower lip with her teeth. “Is that all I do?”

He issued a low, deep groan from his throat and leaned forward. Their lips searched for each other, teasing, until finally they meshed into a heat-searing kiss.

Alice completely lost her head. His lips were hard, firm, staking his claim. His hands went to her waist as his long, lean body pressed against her. She placed her hands on his shoulders and glided her fingertips around the nape of his neck. She wanted this man. Etiquette and propriety be damned. Victorian values wafted to the floor. She wanted to feel every inch of him that she could. His lips trailed over her jaw, kissing the side of her neck.

“Oh, Gray…” she moaned, her flesh now highly sensitized to his touch.

She had never been kissed like this.

He lifted his head; his mouth overtook hers once again. Her stomach fluttered. If it wasn’t for him leaning into her, giving her support, her knees would have buckled. Need. Want. Desire. They pulsed through her.

His tongue teased her lips, coaxing her to receive him. She gave in.

Their tongues mingled, exploring, tempting, teasing. Raging flames consumed her body. There was only Grayson and her. Here. Now.

Grayson broke free, gasping for breath, as did Alice. His hands cupped her face. “I have to stop.”

“All… all right.”

His thumbs stroked her jaw. “You fascinate me, Alice.”

A deep smile graced her lips. “Completely?”

“Totally.”

“You kiss like a demon possessed, Grayson.”

Find me on the web at: my WEBSITE; BLOG; TWITTER; FACEBOOK FAN PAGE and GOODREADS!

Awesome excerpt, Steph! Have to clear my head long enough to take this moment and thank you up front for your invitation to your ‘football season’ blogs. I’ll be visiting with Steph and talking pigskin-related stuff on October 9th! Looking forward to it!

As always I thank all of you who took the time to stop in!

Until next time,

Joanna

And You Keep Reading Because…?

Hi friends,

As always, I’m catching up! I originally wrote this the evening after Tropical Storm Irene made the east coast crazy. I was blessed with no loss of power and only a little water in one corner of my basement (the advantages of living on a small hill).

So one major storm, two baby squirrels and one bird rescued by my son later, and while all the kids were out inspecting storm-related outdoor events, I got to write something. (Okay, the bird did a lot of chirping but that was no big deal—quite a pleasant sound, actually. Keeping up with the kids to heat the squirrels’ rice-filled sock, especially overnight was another story…). Sadly, the bird and one of the squirrels didn’t make it. The other squirrel found her way to a vet who has a special place in her heart for rescuing and releasing squirrels back to the great outdoors when they’re ready. (God is good!)

      

Sidetracked, as usual. I’m focused now, I promise! 😀

Recently I downloaded and read a book. (No!) Uh, yes, and may I take a moment to say it was among the worst written I’ve read through to the end. The editing was probably of poorer quality than the writing, as the book was released by a small press (vs. self-published). Read some of the prose to my son and his friend, both teens. Neither likes reading but to their language arts teachers’ credit, both said something about run-on sentences. Honestly, I don’t know how this book made it to press in the shape I read it, little more than first-draft quality.

I know, I sound mean, but I’m entitled to MHO, right?

Having written that, I’ll reveal nothing identifying about the author or the story; I’ll simply share what I didn’t like.

I’d have no problem with story being told completely from the protagonist’s point of view (POV, from here on), but if you’re throwing in another POV, please allow me to get into that character’s head at least one handful of times. A very likable character got less than five times to shine from his standpoint. Author may as well have skipped including a second POV altogether.

Backstory dumps: more than should be legal for any story, and one of the longest inserted at the most inappropriate times. (I won’t say where for fear of giving any revealing info away.)  At least one of these info dumps was dumped twice, almost verbatim too.

I’ve read many a romance and many a love scene. I’ve heard other readers say they’ve skimmed over love scenes when they get dragged out. First time I ever did so during a first read. Not only were these dragged out, they were way overused. So were the descriptions: same or similar words; same approaches to ‘the act’ and pretty much the same response every time by the heroine, since every scene was in her POV. I got it. I didn’t need to be hit over the head every time this couple decided to show each other how they felt.

So back to the title question: what kept me reading this book?

Yep, the story and the players. Very likable characters caught in a number of worlds—this was a paranormal—whose story goals were defined enough to make me want to root for them while trudging through a dragged out book to see how things turned out. Would I read a second book by this author? Doubt it. But, this was proof that characters and an engaging story will keep this reader turning the pages far more than something well-put together but with no people relatability going on.

Anyway, that’s MHO. Thanks for indulging me. Your turn! What keeps YOU reading? And since I’ll be judging first-round in The Suzannah Contest and because I want to start branching out and paying forward more, leave a comment for a chance to win a five-page critique on a current work-in-progress; I’ll pick a winner by the end of the week!

Have a great day,

Joanna

Real-Life Game-On Participant!

Happy Thursday, people! Hope all is well with all of you! Looking forward to getting my life back once the US Open Tennis Championship winds down as well as a visit from a pair of Aussie cousins who happen to be in town! Always fun!

And, while we’re dealing in fun, this is why I love the internet. You just never know who you’ll come across, especially once you get yourself all a-Twitter! (Look for an upcoming post on how powerful a social media tool Twitter is, but be warned, I have yet to write it, lol.)

Moving on! Allow my newest on-line friend to introduce herself AND a fun approach to dieting I knew nothing about! Welcome!

Hi! My name is Joanna Clark Dawyd, and I’m excited for the opportunity to be Joanna Aislinn’s guest today.

While browsing on the internet one day, I came across a book, called The Game On! Diet, by Krista Vernoff and AZ Ferguson.  I read reviews, and I was intrigued by the concept. I posted an event on Facebook, inviting some friends I thought might be interested in making healthy lifestyle changes.  To my amazement, twelve people wanted to play!

Now, I must warn you that the book is full of swear words! Usually, I wouldn’t recommend something like that, but to me, the message of this book is worth overlooking a plethora of f-words.

The game involves making healthy choices, in food, exercise, and a few other areas.  But to provide motivation, it turns those choices into a competitive sport!

We began the game on May 16th, with two teams.  The prize at stake: a delicious dinner prepared by the losing team for the winning team. Not all the players knew everyone.  Some only knew one other person.  But one aspect of the game is building a support network, so we each got five points per day for communicating with both teams.  We sent emails back and forth every day, full of trash talk, support, and meal suggestions.

Throughout the four weeks of the game (my team lost, but it was a close race!), I lost about5 pounds.  I discovered that it can be fun to exercise!  Who knew? My kids and I had crazy dance parties, and they “helped” me exercise using the Wii Fit. I rode my bike a lot more than I would have otherwise, taking the kids along in the trailer. I even attempted running a few times.

The most important part of the game and the book is the flexibility.  Exercise is simply defined as activity that raises the heart rate and lasts for 20 minutes. And unlike other diets, this one allows for one entire day off, plus an additional meal off from the rules. ( I still can enjoy my Tim Horton’s Iced Cappuccino!)  The rules also allow 100 free calories of anything each day.  So I can have BBQ sauce on my steak, or butter on my toast if I want too.  This makes it much more likely that I’ll stick to the rules.  If you’re already on a weight loss food plan, you can use that plan and still play the game.

After our game ended, I decided to keep playing.  I printed out more score sheets, and my weight has been going down, for the most part, ever since. I do give myself a little more lee-way than I would if I were competing, but that’s ok!  It’s ok not to be perfect. It’s not about the score, or even about the weight or my size or shape.  It’s about feeling healthy.  It’s about having energy to play with my kids.  It’s about walking up the stairs without panting when I get to the top!

If you enjoyed this and want to read more of my rambling, visit my blogs! I write aboutbooks and writing as well as creativity and DIY home decor. (Here are some of Joanna’s creative works–love Crayons! Joanna is also find-able on Facebook and Twitter, too.)

       

Joanna, thanks for this opportunity!

So much fun to have you, Joanna!

And always a pleasure to have all of you stop in! The Game-On! Diet sounds like a lot of fun. I’ve found that the only way to keep up with exercise and fitness is to incorporate things you truly enjoy (i.e., tennis and walking for me) as well as easy, effective ways to see results. (That’s why I keep up and vary the small weight workout.) The ‘time off’ concept is invaluable too, as is allowing oneself the luxury of consciously letting self- discipline slip every now and again. Keeps me on track in the bigger picture.)

Now we turn the spotlight on you, visitor-friends! How about sharing what works for you in the weight/fitness/healthy lifestyle practices? Don’t be shy! If what you share resonates with one person, wasn’t it worth the comment? (Maybe even make a post out of that, too ! :))

A great day to all,

Joanna 

Djok-hold On the Grand Slams for 2011

Wanted to post this yesterday but didn’t want to take away from my previous engagement with the wonderful authors over at Reflections in Hindsight. If you missed my post about what I’d do differently given the knowledge I’ve gained in the past near-two years, hope you take a moment and read my thoughts on that subject here.

 Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

What a final stretch to get to the finish!

Via a physical display on both sides of the net that left the rest of us mere humans exhausted just watching, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal showed why each owns the ranking of Number One and Number Two, respectively. (When it comes to fitness and athleticism, though, I’m giving these guys a tie at top billing.) And when it comes to rooting for your favorite player? It’s to both these young guys’ credit that you felt badly pulling for either one at any time b/c that meant you weren’t pulling for the other guy at any given moment. (I know. It’s up there with keeping up with that ball going back and forth across the court.)

Beginning with Serbia’s Davis Cup win Novak Djokovic spent from then through today amazing the tennis world with his eye-popping record of 64-2. I’ll paraphrase what  Rafa Nadal so graciously said in his interview at the end of the US Open Tennis Men’s Final, where he came in as runner-up: he (Novak) has done something incredible that will be extremely difficult to repeat.

And that folks, is why The Djok deserves to hold that trophy high and revel in his moment. He earned it.

See y’all tomorrow! We’ve got Joanna Clark Dawyd, quite the interesting visitor. Stop in and show her some love!

Joanna