The Quirky Ladies is a group of eclectic (and dare I say quirky?) ladies who are passionate about writing romantic fiction. All types of romantic fiction...paranormal, fantasy, historical, erotic and contemporary. Bring it on!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Gone Fishing!



The Quirky Ladies are embracing summer vacation (just a tad early). We will be taking a break from the Quirky Lady blog for a while, but you can find us at these other locations....Please stop by!

Samantha Wayland

Michelle Picard

Vicki Morgan

Tara Truesdale

Dalton Diaz

Michelle Polaris

Kate Macarthur

Penny Watson


Happy Summer!
Penny

Thursday, April 28, 2011

NECRWA Conference This Weekend! Woo!



The NECRWA Let Your Imagination Take Flight Conference is coming up this Friday and Saturday, April 29-30 in Salem. Our New England Chapter hosts this event every spring, and it is a wonderful conference. This year speakers include Annette Blair, Anne Stuart and Lani Diane Rich. The Quirky Ladies can't wait to attend. We hope to see some of you there!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Fun Theory

I read a blog recently about The Fun Theory. Yes, it's an initiative of Volkswagen, which makes it suspect since any PR effort by a corporation is ultimately about making money, even if it promotes other positive outcomes. I was willing to put this aside when I heard the thrust of the idea: that "something as simple as fun is the easiest way to change people's behavior for the better. Be it for yourself, for the environment, or for something entirely different, the only thing that matters is that it's change for the better."

I am endlessly fascinated by how change occurs, so this idea caught my attention. Lasting change, I believe, most often happens incrementally and with much repetition of a change to behavior. This aruges that in order for these fun experiments to really cause lasting change, Volkswagen better keep them around for quite a while.

Below is a YouTube video of one of Volkswagen's change through fun experiments, the result of a contest for ideas to promote the concept. It's called Piano Stairs. If you visit The Fun Theory site you can see the rest of the contest winning experiments. Maybe you saw this one circulating on social media. Enjoy. And tell me what you think about this pathway to change. Do you buy it?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Quirky Bit O' Fashion



Fergie wore an age-appropriate dress for the 2011 Kids' Choice Awards recently. This quirky dress is made entirely of Legos....by L.A. designer Michael Schmidt. My son would have been impressed if the whole thing was made with Bionicle pieces.

Sitting down might be a problem.

Rock on,
Penny

Monday, March 28, 2011

Golden Heart Finalist


Last Friday I got the call that changed my life. It wasn't the "I-love-your-book-and-want-to-purchase-it" but it was equally as exciting. I learned that my manuscript Changing Fortunes is a National Romance Writer's of America® Golden Heart® Finalist in the Historical Romance category. I think my neighbors heard my screams. My dog was cowering under the table. I was stunned, excited, and honored. My fellow Quirky Ladies kept telling me that this was 'the one', but sometimes it's hard to believe. With this nomination, I'm a little bit closer to believing.... :).

Changing Fortunes is the story of Garrett Sinclair, the Earl of Kendall who is a survivor of the Charge of the Light Brigade. Suffering from post-traumatic stress and survivor guilt, he has spent the last six months trying to drink himself to death. It is not until he learns of a plot to kill him, that he is surprised to discover he wishes to live.

The only person holding clues to the men plotting his murder is Lady Alexandra Langdon, who recently lost her fortune to Garrett in hand of cards. While preferring to see the murderous plot succeed and Garrett six-feet under, Alexandra reluctantly agrees to assist Garrett in identifying his assassins. If the two don't kill each other first, Garrett might survive.

Despite these obstacles threatening to tear them apart, the two are drawn together when Alexandra assists Garrett with his post-traumatic stress and Garrett begins to unravel the secrets to Alexandra's past. Defenses are lowered, hearts are opened, and they find that their life together is worth fighting for.

To read an excerpt, visit me at my author's blog.







Saturday, March 26, 2011

She's Got A Golden Ticket!


WOOOOOO HOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!! The Quirky Ladies are very excited to announce that our very own Victoria Morgan has been nominated for a Golden Heart Award by the RWA!


YEEEEE HAWWWWWWW! Go, Vicki! Go, Vicki!


Hugh Jackman just stopped by to say.... "Congrats, Vicki! That is fabulous news. I'm cheering for you."

Vicki's wonderful historical, Changing Fortunes, has been nominated in the Historical Romance category. The Quirky Ladies and everyone at NECRWA is thrilled for her. Can't wait for nationals! Woo!

Happy, happy days!
Penny

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Change or Perish - A Bookie Learns to Love Technology

Last week I had the privilege to see President Bill Clinton speak at a conference I was attending in San Francisco. He is, as he has always been, a captivating speaker. His talk focused on the power of the Internet to transform lives and how our lives have changed, and will continue to change, as we move forward, and sometimes stumble forward, into a global economy driven by technology.

As I absorbed his words I thought not only of the implications in my work, but also the changes in my personal life due to technology. Just a short 7 years ago, I still had a desktop computer that would have been way too heavy to drag home every night, so when I was I done with work, I was done with work. I also only had a phone with a cord at my desk – couldn’t take that home either. My brick of a cell phone was for personal, emergency use only. Now I have a personal smart phone, a blackberry for work, an iTouch for cool apps and music, a laptop for work, a laptop for home, and a netbook for travel, not to mention I work more than ever since I’m always connected (I could write a whole other blog on that subject). I also have a Kindle, which brings me back to Bill Clinton and how I think his words relate to the ever changing publishing environment.

While in San Francisco I stopped by a Borders Bookstore that is closing soon. I was able to find some good books that would fit in my suitcase for steep discounts (always fun for a bookie), but as I was checking out, I had an interesting conversation with the clerk. Come to find out, that Borders location, perfectly located in the heart of Union Square, was once considered a flagship store when the company first expanded nationally over 20 years ago, and now it doesn’t stand a chance because of a changing marketplace and high real estate premiums.

Growing up and into my twenties, I loved going to smaller bookstores and finding that special gem of a book, but as time went on, I was more than happy to go to the one stop shopping mega-bookstores.
I know, I know, blasphemy. But hey, the big stores had coffee and music too, how could I resist? As e-books began to become popular, I told myself I could not cave. I had to remain a staunch purist. I might succumb to buying most of my books in one place, but I was still physically buying books.

Times change. Again. And Again.

Just a few years ago, e-publishers were considered fringe at best. The literary elite in New York turned their noses up at the idea – as did a lot of bookaphiles. E-publishing was a marginal way in to publishing, but most everyone still wanted a book with their name on it that they could hold in their hands and put on their bookshelves. No such much anymore.

I was a late adapter to e-books, not only as a reader, but as a would-be novelist. However, after getting the Kindle for my birthday last October, even I have to admit I enjoy getting books as quickly as I can type a few keystrokes. I also enjoy seeing so many of my friends getting their stories published, earning decent money and finding their way as authors. I would also now consider e-publishing as a means to publish my own manuscripts. Part of my transition is that I grasp that the marketplace has changed, and one must change with the marketplace, or perish. As a reader, I also like the fact that I don’t have to lug five books in my suitcase whenever I travel. I can just bring a device that can hold 1000s of books.

Bill Clinton told us that he felt that the Internet is now an inalienable right of every single person in the world given the benefits it can bring to our lives. I agree. Look what it did for college kids in Cairo, look at how quickly we can help earthquake/tsunami victims in Japan, and think of how your doctor can now look at your older medical records and compare that information with your new test results with a device they holds in their hands while they are consulting with you. Brilliant.

Technology is a powerful force for good. Yes, there is some bad too, closing bookstores and limited print runs being just the tip of the iceberg, but as Bill Clinton mentioned; it is okay if we stumble a bit, as long as we stumble forward.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Puzzle People


I am a puzzle person.
(Disclaimer: this does not include Sudoku. Sudoku=numbers, numbers=math, math=hell.)

My favorite are jigsaw puzzles, and Quirky fact I may have mentioned before, my favorite jigsaw puzzles are Thomas Kincaid. No, I do not have pictures of cottages and waterfalls in my house, and I don't plant ivy up trellises, etc. In fact, I don't plant anything. I kill plants. Even my MIL, past president of the local garden club, has given up on me there.

So, back to puzzles. There is something relaxing about sitting down and making pieces fit. Not forcing anything, not having to use a lot of brain power, just the ease of, "It goes there, therefore it always works." Can you think of anything else in life that is that clear? Certainly not writing books, though I am a pantser, puzzler there.

When I first started writing, I wasn't even a linear pantser puzzler. I literally started with a sex scene and/or the black moment and wrote scenes as they came to me. Inevitably, those first scenes never made it into the book because I didn't know the characters well enough at that point to have any real development. It worked, but there were a lot of rewrites. I still edit to death, especially those first three chapters, but I'm no longer working with multitude sticky notes, napkins, notebooks, whatever I could get my hands on when inspiration struck.

I still love that magical moment when it all comes together. It's toward the end of the puzzle, when each piece makes sense. When you can look at it and know where it goes. When you've built sections and you figure out the connection that glues them to the main picture. Whether I'm talking about intricate plot lines or cheesy jigsaw puzzles, that moment exists and it's gratifying. Any puzzler worth their salt knows what I mean.

My puzzle awaits...

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Quirky Stuff about Kate George and Bree MacGowan



The Quirky Ladies are thrilled to have author Kate George visiting with us today. Welcome, Kate! She is a fellow member of the NECRWA, the conference chair for this year's exciting conference happening in Salem, MA (hope to see all of you there!), and a wonderful, humorous and quirky author. Her first book, Moonlighting In Vermont, was a fun, sexy adventure in Vermont (my favorite state in the USA), and I loved it. (See Penelope's review here). I haven't had a chance to read California Schemin' yet...can't wait. Kate has been gracious enough to share some quirky traits with us....her own, and of course some from Bree, the heroine of her new book. Take it away, Kate!




Five Quirky Things about Author Kate George.....

1) I’ve had something like fifteen or more different careers. Among them are answering service operator, motorcycle safety instructor, actress, assistant to the dive officer on Catalina Island, and foreclosure officer (that one was awful).

2) I come from a musical family. Sometimes when someone is talking my mother and I would break out into the same song at the same moment. For example, if you were to say “That happened yesterday,” we might start singing “Yesterday” by the Beatles. I still do this even though my mother passed on several years back. My daughters are afraid that one day they will start to sing with me. The boys figure they are immune.

3) I can quote lines from Megamind. “It can be reheated in the microwave of evil…” and “I’m not sure what to do with that.” Or how about “Oooh! I’m shaking in my custom baby seal leather boots.”

4) In my mind’s eye I’m still a twenty-something young woman with a wicked sense of humor – not a stodgy old woman – which is what I see when I look in the mirror. Is it possible to be a young of mind stodgy looking old woman with a great sense of humor?

5) I prefer not to read serious books or watch serious movies. I love humor. I get addicted to books and movies that make me laugh. Among my favorites are The Thin Blue Line, (English Comedy), Welcome to Temptation (Romance by Jennifer Crusie) and… heck. I can’t think of any more. I know there are more. That’s another quirky thing about me - I lose things in my head. Words, movies, how to cook noodles. You name it, I’ve forgotten it.

Five Quirky things about Bree MacGowan......

1) Bree can’t resist rescuing dogs. She makes an effort to find them homes, but if she can’t find one in a week or so she becomes too attached to give them away. In the same vein, Bree would rather make friends with a skunk and figure out how to keep it from spraying her dogs than to kill it.

2) Bree doesn’t realize that just because she thinks she in control of a situation that doesn’t mean she is. In other words, the skunk is still is only cooperating because it wants to.

3) While Bree doesn’t mind snakes in the out of doors, she’s not over fond of finding dead ones on her pillow. Still a dead snake on your pillow is better than a live skunk. Who let that animal in the house?

4) Bree’s not sure why she goes through men faster than chocolate. She doesn’t realize that while the boyfriends she had are mostly nice, it’s going to take a guy with balls of steel and an exceptional sense of humor to keep up with her.

5) Bree reads Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series. Bree secretly wished she could be a bounty hunter and date Ranger and Morelli. Author Kate George secretly wishes that too.


*****

Thanks, Kate, for the fun lists! I love your quirky jobs....my weirdest job was analyzing Bowhead whale songs at a research station. I got to listen to whale songs all day long!

Any visitors have quirky jobs they'd like to share with us? Let us know! Best of luck to Kate with her new release.


Award winning author, Kate George, originally hails from Northern California, where she was raised on a ranch alongside two brothers, feral cats, cattle and at least one mountain lion. After working in a variety of occupations from actress to motorcycle safety instructor she earned a degree in anthropology from UC Davis before deciding to return to writing. She now lives in Vermont with her dogs, kids, husband and currently several feet of snow. You can reach her at www.kategeorge.com. Her latest release is California Schemin’ available at http://mainlymurderpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=52, http://www.amazon.com/California-Schemin-Kate-George/dp/0982795246/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1299175652&sr=8-5 and can be ordered from any bookstore.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Writerly Life Lessons From A Mad Professor Chef



Any Top Chef fans out there? My husband and I only watch 2 shows on TV....Project Runway and Top Chef. Both of these shows are appealing to me because of the creativity factor. It's amazing to watch fashion designers take burlap sacks and create gorgeous and innovative clothes. Likewise, it's totally inspirational to see master chefs produce wonderful meals using.... stuff from vending machines, kiddie-friendly fare, and fish they catch themselves. I love seeing creativity in action.

Which brings me to the finale of Top Chef, and my light-bulb epiphany last night. There are 5 contestants left in this Top Chef season, and one of them is Richard Blais. (Let's call him Richie, shall we?) Anyway, he is the mad professor of the bunch. He loves liquid nitrogen, he loves thinking outside of the box. He's part chemist, part chef, part scowling, self-doubting faux-mohawk dude.

Last night he made the fatal error that may break him. He stopped focusing on the food, and focused only on the win. The competition. He wants to redeem himself and his past failure. He wants to out-think his colleagues. It's all about "the game." And that, my friends, may be the kiss of death for Richie. Because it has to be about the food.

I've been struggling with my WIP, Lumberjack In Love. (Yes, it's about a lumberjack in love. I'm not great with titles.) It was feeling flat and I didn't know why. Instead of brainstorming about the story and the characters, I've been thinking about where to publish it. Self-pub? E-book? Try for a larger pub? Print? I haven't been letting my brain do its typical stream of consciousness thing. Where scenes and dialogue and romantic moments pop into my head. I've been too consumed with the endpoint, the game, the competition, the win, and not focusing on the creative aspect of writing.

As soon as I decided to forget about the game, I figured out how to fix the story. (Suffice it to say, it has something to do with a humorous POV and an English bulldog. But I digress). Anyhow, I owe it all to Richie. Maybe I'll dedicate Lumberjack in Love to him. He made me realize it has to be about the writing, not the win.

Because the writing is the win.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Ode to a Quirky Man


Dr. Suess (Theodor Suess Giesel, 1904-1991) was one of the great men of our times. For many of us, the name immediately invokes images of green eggs and ham, of lanky cats in red and white stripped hats, and a green pot-bellied menace that would try to steal Christmas from Cindy Lou Who.

But he was really so much more than that. He was an everyman, in a way you never hear of anymore. If you read about his life, he seems at once extraordinary and normal. Foolhardy and brave. Always adventurous. And with a gift for words the likes of which has not been seen since.

He went to Dartmouth, where he began writing under his mother's maiden name because he'd been thrown off the school paper for getting caught drinking gin in his dorm room in the heart of prohibition.

"Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened."

He went to Oxford in search of a PhD and found love instead.

"You know you're in love when you can't fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams."

He penned a series of political cartoon during WWII that scathingly denounced Hitler and Mussolini.

"I meant what I said and I said what I meant."

His work there got him noticed by Warner Brother's studio and he moved on to help create Private Snafu, a series of very raunchy animated soldier training films.

"I like nonesense, it wakes up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living. It's a way of looking at life through the wrong end of the telescope, which is what I do, and that enables you to laugh at life's realities."

After the war, he and his wife would move to California and he would turn his attention to writing children's stories. His early books would win countless awards, but incredibly, he would never, in all his years, win the Newbury or Caldecott Medals, the most prestigious of the children's literature honors.

"You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. You're on your own. And you know what you know. You are the guy who will decide where to go."

Then in May of 1954, Life Magazine published an article about illiteracy among school children, and concluded that part of the problem was that their books were boring. William Ellsworth Spaulding, the Director of the Education Division at Houghton Mifflin Publishing, would then sit down and compile a list of the 348 words he felt were most important for first graders to learn. He gave this list to Theodor Giesel, who none months later would return with a book that used 236 of those words - The Cat in the Hat.

"Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not."

Within a few very short years, Dr. Suess would transform children's literature forever. Many authors who have come since have emulated his style, his class, his gift for language. For this alone, let alone what his books brought into our lives, he bettered all our worlds. He empowered children, put them in the spotlight, made them feel special, embracing that they are not little adults (quite the opposite - see below) and encouraged them to laugh, to think, to read. To be quirky!

"Adults are just obsolete children and the hell with them."

And for this we thank him. Daily. In 2009, Green Eggs and Ham sold 540,366 copies, Cat in the Hat sold 452,258 copies and One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish sold 409,068 - each outselling the majority of newly published children's books.

"And will you succeed? Yes indeed, yes indeed. Ninety-eight and three-quarters percent guaranteed!"

As authors, we could only hope for a legacy such as this. Not the sales, though I'm sure our grandchildren would not mind overmuch, but to be remembered so well, so foundly, and by so many. Over the course of his career, his honors would include two Academy Awards, two Emmys, a Peabody Award, the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award and the Pulitzer Prize. Or perhaps his alma mater honors him most nobley, when 90% of incoming Freshman at Dartmouth take pre-registration wilderness trips as part of their orientation, and upon their return are always served green eggs and ham for breakfast.

For all this man did for us as children, my very favorite quote is one that I have returned to again and again as an adult. I don't think I knew it was a Dr. Seuss quote when I first found it as a teenager, having moved past the age when silly rhymes and fantastical drawings could soothe me. But, as it turns out, he was still there for me, urging us to keep learning (Oh, The Places You'll Go) and reminding us that those who love us, love us quirks and all:
"Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind."

Friday, March 4, 2011

Quirky Bit O' Fish



My son has always been fascinated by deep sea life, even as a young toddler. We spent hours watching cool National Geographic movies and researching funky creatures like giant squids and bizarre deep-sea fish.

Anglerfish are probably the quirkiest fish in the sea. They are fabulously-well adapted to life at the bottom of the ocean floor, often times a mile below the surface. Their appearance is grotesque. The massive mouth, sharp, jagged teeth, and diabolical lure make them efficient predators and hideously ugly. The females have a modified dorsal spine that hangs over the mouth, tipped with a luminous bit o' "bait." They are able to swallow prey twice their size due to this huge mouth.

It's too bad mere mortals can't explore the deep sea....it's probably one of the most amazing experiences on earth....and scary, too.

Hope y'all have a good weekend!
Penny

Monday, February 28, 2011

A Quirky Conference

TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design. The TED conference is a yearly event where the world's leading thinkers come together in an immersive environment to share more than fifty talks over the course of four days, cross-fertilizing their thinking and inspiring attendees. From the pod casts I've seen of the talks (available for free on the web at http://www.ted.com/) it is truly a magic environment.

Although it's an invitation only event (but still non-profit), and is prohibitively expensive for the average Jane, it's expanded to sister conferences and has reached the people through it's on-line presence. The feel of the organization is not exclusive, but inclusive and community building. Global community building. Interconnection of the world. Check out the website and start to watch some of the extraordinary videos. We all need some inspiration.

Charlie Rose recently interviewed the current curator of the conference, Chris Anderson, who said that in a world where we fear that globalization is a force that is "dumbing down" the population, this global, almost viral phenomenon centered around the excitement of thinking, innovation, connectedness and new ideas is disproving that. It instead creates hope.

Here's the four minute documentary "A Taste of TED" that should give you a feel for the phenomenon. I hope you get a chance to watch some of the pod casts and find inspiration where you can. I know I need some.


Friday, February 25, 2011

Quirky Bit O' Food



One of the highlights of my recent trip to NYC was visiting China Town. My sis, her boyfriend, and several of their friends who are connoisseurs of Asian cooking, took us to a fabulous restaurant for dinner. Even my picky kids loved the food!

The waitress talked us into a special dish they were offering which celebrated the Chinese New Year. It's called "yee sang" and has a mixture of raw fish, daikon, jicama, candied papaya, candied persimmon, wonton crisps, rice crisps and colorful taro chips. The waitress adds the contents of a red envelope to the top (I thought it was real gold leaf bits, but now I'm not so sure!), and drizzles honey over the salad (for sweetness for the new year). Everyone at the table uses their chopsticks to toss the salad together, ensuring a lucky year for all.

The salad was bright, crunchy, flavorful. What a sweet and symbolic tradition!


Another "quirky" detail about China Town....we loved the outdoor markets. This one had tons of crazy stuff, including a dozen different kinds of dried sea cucumber! Cool!


Happy Weekend!
Penny

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Interview and Giveaway with Author Ella Drake!



Interview and Giveaway with Ella Drake!


Penny: Welcome to The Quirky Ladies, Ella! I am so glad you're here today. I have really enjoyed reading two of your sci fi/romances, Jaq's Harp and Silver Bound.  Science fiction and romance do not seem like a complementary pairing. Sort of like wearing combat boots with a couture dress. What are your feelings about this quirky sub-genre? How difficult is it to weave sci fi details and romance together in one story?

Ella: It’s not difficult. For me, it’s a natural. No matter where people are, what their setting, there’s a fundamental drive to have relationships whether familial, platonic friendship, or romantic, it’s part of being human. Put a bunch of people on a space station, they’ll form connections. They’ll gossip. They’ll fight. They’ll have sex in the virtual reality room!

Penny: I love stories that put a funky new twist on an old legend or fairy tale. (Can you say Santa Claus? hee hee) Jaq's Harp is a cool futuristic twist on the legend of Jack and the Beanstalk. How did you come up with this awesome idea and what were your sources of inspiration for the bioengineered plants? Did it ever occur to you to make the plants more insidious? I like how the human characters are still the main source of good and evil in this story; there is a satisfying sense of temporal universality of basic human good and evil. Regardless of our technological advances, we will always be the source of our own demise. Very cool.

Ella: The idea came from reading the original fairy tale to my kids and the resulting discussion of why in the world was Jack the good guy? He was poor, sure, but did that give him the right to climb up a beanstalk to steal from a giant and then kill that giant? From there, it was my own imagination taking it to “what if” and wondering what would make it okay for someone to climb up to a castle (mansion) in the sky to steal something. Of course, stealing to make things better, to stop the bad guys, wasn’t too big a stretch. And believing the giant was a bad guy in the original helped, so of course, in my story, the giant would have to be bad. It’d a big game of if this happened, then this might… The beanstalk came from wanting to make the story futuristic but not magic based, so the plant had to be science based. Never occurred to me to make the stalk insidious but that does open interesting possibilities! But yeah, it all comes down to good guys and bad guys in the end, or maybe misguided guys.

Penny: Could you tell us about some of your favorite sci fi stories (books/movies/TV shows, anything) and what premises really appeal to you? Who are your favorite sci fi villains? heroes? (My all-time favorite heroine is Ripley from Aliens...she is the ultimate feminist kick-ass heroine.)

Ella: Ripley is right up there! She’s a fantastic character. A premise that has always appealed to me is the one in The Abyss. The idea that there’s unexplored territory down below the oceans. That movie has a strong heroine lead as well. I think James Cameron knows how to write a heroine. Ripley (Aliens 2), Lindsey Brigman (The Abyss), Neytiri (Avatar), Max (Dark Angel), Mace (Strange Days), Helen Tasker (True Lies) and Sarah Connor (Terminator is one of my favorite movies, though not so much into T 2&3). Basically, Cameron’s entire body of work.
Oh, oops. I got off on a tangent about kick-ass heroines. Who can blame me?
My favorite scifi villain has to be Dark Vader, as he was in the first original Star Wars movie. He was such a scary character when he was first introduced. And of course, my favorite hero is Han Solo. Of course.

Penny: Oh, I totally LOVE the movie The Abyss. Good one! I also love the original Terminator...it's a great sci fi love story, and Sarah Connor is a fabulous heroine...especially her transformation from sweet, regular gal into kick-ass warrior. Nice choice.

What is your writing process like? Do you plot everything out ahead of time? Pants it? Do your stories and/or characters ever surprise you? Do you have a tough time adding in the "spicy" parts, or is that an integral part of the story?

Ella: I’m in-between plotting and pantsing. I usually have an idea, write somewhere between a chapter and three by pantsing it, then I stop and do a rough outline. This outline is generally a bullet list of something like ten points of where I want to go. When I write short, I may only have an idea of where I need to go to get to the end and one or two points to get there. The spicy parts aren’t difficult for me. I think mostly because when I start a story, I already know how much of the spicy the story needs. Some need more than others. I don’t force it there if it doesn’t need to be. The growth of the characters and their relationship are the driving force behind those scenes.

Penny: How difficult is it to write a satisfying story when the word count is low? Do you approach it differently than writing a full-length manuscript? As a reviewer, I find some short stories incredibly satisfying, like an "amuse bouche"--a quickie taste of something wonderful. Other quickies leave you feeling unsatisfied, and wishing the story had been longer. How do you circumvent this problem as a writer?

Ella: Writing short to me means sticking to the barebones essential conflict. Usually this means a minimal of secondary characters, though that can be done if the story needs it. It means dealing with a plot that can be resolved satisfactorily in the space available. It also means paying close attention to pacing. Most importantly, the ending becomes crucial. The close of the story can’t be too abrupt or the reader will feel like they’ve been left hanging. And that ending needs to feel substantial, whether everything is resolved or not.

Penny: Are you planning sequels for any of your books? What projects are you working on now? Is sci/fi romance your favorite genre, or are you jonesing for something different?

Ella: I am planning sequels to both of the stories you’ve mentioned. I’m almost done with a prequel for Silver Bound and I’ve planned a story that takes place after the events of Silver Bound. I’ve also finished the next story in the world of Jaq’s Harp. Hopefully I’ll have more news on that one soon. Sci-fi and paranormal romance are my favorite genres, but I also love historical romance and there are a select few contemporary authors I follow and snap up their new releases like candy.

Penny: Since you're on The Quirky Ladies blog, I have to ask....what's quirky about Ella Drake? Do you have a favorite quirky book/movie/music/food?

Ella: Not sure why, but the first thing that popped into my head with that question was a quirky book that’s one of my favorites, The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fford, which in round-about way reminds me of The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon. That brings me to Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut. These three novels are some of my favorites of all time, which is amazing since I mostly love and stick to Romance. But when I read outside of Romance, I love to read books that are a bit quirky. All three of these have what I’d call speculative elements. I guess there’s a bit of a theme, there.
Quirky food. I’ve loved this since I was a kid: Take a small bottle of Coke (it has to be a bottle) and pour a packet of salty roasted peanuts in it & drink/eat!

Penny: Those books sound cool. And your quirky food sounds....well....quirky. I'm not sure I could eat that!

Ella, thanks so much for hanging out with The Quirky Ladies today. 

We'll be giving away one copy of Jaq's Harp to a random commenter. Just tell Ella who your favorite kick-ass heroine is!




Bio: As a child Ella read books under the covers with a flashlight. There she found a special love of elves, dragons, and knights. Now that she's found her own knight in shining armor and happily ever after, she loves to write tales of fantasy, hot enough to scorch the sheets. No flashlight needed.

Ella writes dark paranormal and science fiction romance. She loves to talk with readers and can be found most days on Twitter, Facebook, & Goodreads. She can also be found on her website and her eHarlequin author page.





Blurb:
Jaq’s Harp
Futuristic Romance/Twisted Fairytale/Biopunk -- Short (ebook)

In a world of floating islands and bio-engineered beans, the bad guys are taken down by agents of the Mother organization—agents like Jacqueline “Jaq” Robinson. Instead of accepting her next routine assignment, she sets out on a mission of her own—to destroy Giant Corp, the company responsible for her sister’s wasting illness. Jaq must steal her cure from Giant’s headquarters high above the city…even though she’ll be brought face-to-face with Harper English, the man who left her to go deep undercover at Giant.

For Harp, Jaq had been a distraction the mercenary thought he couldn’t afford. But once he sees her again, Harp knows he’s made a mistake. Even though she vowed he won’t have her again, it’s clear they still have a powerful attraction. Harp’s determined to get a second chance with Jaq—if they can escape Giant Corp and get back to solid ground in one piece…


Please visit her website to read an excerpt of this fantastic story!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Looking For A Quirky Biopunk Sci Fi Romance? Try Jaq's Harp!



It's release day for Jaq's Harp by Ella Drake! Congrats to Ella, a fellow NECRWA member. I reviewed this book several weeks ago at Penelope's Romance Reviews, and I thought I would reprint the review here at The Quirky Ladies. Ella will be joining us on Wednesday, Feb. 23 for an interview and giveaway. Please stop by on Wednesday to chat with her and enter the contest.

From Penelope's Romance Reviews.....




The premise for this story is fantastic. It's a futuristic sci fi take on the legend of Jack and the Beanstalk. I adore funky new twists on fairy tales and legends. Drake calls this book a "twisted fairytale, biopunk romance." What I liked....the sci fi details are awesome. Drake does a tremendous job with her world-building. The bio-engineered beanstalk, the floating "islands," the hovercrafts, the dark, gritty, and desperate feel to life for the poor schmucks left on the surface of the earth, all make for a stunning vision of a world gone awry with technology. I also liked the heroine, Jaq, a lot...she is the quintessential kick-ass heroine, complete with roundhouse kicks, etc etc. The storyline was solid (with bitchy villainess and a-hole villain), had lots of action and suspense, and was extremely well written. Which may have worked against Drake in the end...I wanted more to this story. It was too short for me. The sci fi part worked great, but I wanted more about the characters and their relationship. I tend to gravitate to character-driven stories, not plot-centered stories, but even so....I still was fully engaged in this one.

Grade: B+


(If you haven't tried sci fi/romance yet, this book is a great introduction to the sub-genre. Action packed, filled with cool world-building details, and has a smoky romance, too!)

Happy Monday,
Penny

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Self-Promotion Is Not A Dirty Word


Guess what I'm doing today? Talking about one of my favorite subjects...promotion for romance writers! I'll be speaking at the NECRWA meeting at Brandeis University at 1:00. (Unfortunately, the Chippendale's dancers cancelled, but hopefully there should be chocolate.)


Here are a few tips on self-promotion to get us started...

1.) Don't post naked photos of yourself on your website. Unless you look like Bo Derek. And even then it's probably not a good idea.

2.) Including 5-star review snippets from your mother is ineffective as a promotional tool.

3.) Choose appropriate sites for your blog tour. Doing an interview on "Flyfishing For Big Boys" is most likely a waste of time and won't increase book sales. Although you never know.


Looking forward to chatting with everyone!
See you soon,
Penny

Friday, February 18, 2011

Quirky Bit O' Canine




Need a mop?
A new wig?
A warm, snuggly blanket for winter?
This awesome and out-of-this-world dog looks like a great multi-tasker.


This Hungarian dog is a corded Komondor from the Westminster Dog Show. (It's sometimes referred to as a "mop dog" for obvious reasons.) It was bred to protect livestock. 

I just couldn't resist posting it since it is pretty much the epitome of quirkiness. My daughter got a photo of one sleeping in his kennel at the dog show, but I thought this photo was much more dramatic. You get to see the wonderful movement of those luscious locks!

Happy Weekend,
Penny

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Circling Back


Sometimes life comes full circle.  Once in awhile, you reconnect with childhood friends, or visit a place and get a sense of deju vu before you remember you had been there before.  Sometimes you pick up a book, get half way through it and realize you've read it before.  Or is that having a senior moment? Anyway, I recently had this strange experience of life coming full circle.

I love Robyn Carr's Virgin River Series.  For those of you unfamiliar with her work, you are in for a treat.  The series takes place in the mythical town of Virgin River (pop. 600), which is set against the picturesque backdrop of the towering redwoods and the Sierra Nevada Mountains in northern California.  Carr paints the town with a colorful ensemble of heroes and heroines, their extended family, as well as the eccentric and loveable towns people populating Virgin River.

While Carr's characters are delightful, many too good to be true, her stories are well written, humorous, and engaging.  She also addresses a wide range of topics such as domestic violence, post-traumatic stress (most of the heroes of her books are war veterans), Down Syndrome, infertility and even rape.  Through the support of the town community, her characters find their peace as well as a road to their own HEAs.  Diving into the next book in the series is like revisiting cherished friends as Carr weaves the characters we've met throughout her books.

In regard to rediscovering old friends and circling back, last fall I heard Robyn Carr speak at the New Jersey Romance Writers conference.  She was as entertaining as her books.  However, she mentioned that she had begun her career writing historical romances, and suddenly a strange sense of deja vu swept over me.  Once upon a time (okay, around two decades ago), my favorite romances were historicals written by a Robyn Carr.  I still own a beloved beat up copy, it being a timeless favorite.  The book was Chelynne.

As first, I didn't believe the Robyn Carr speaking was the same author I loved all those years ago. I couldn't be obsessed with this author's work twice in my lifetime.  Could I?  Yes, I could.

Decades later, Robyn Carr still writes beautiful, engaging stories, and I'm lucky to have found her -- again.  She has a career to envy and I do.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Penny's Quickie Quirky Updates From The Big Apple



I'm back! I survived my trip to New York City....42nd Street, Toys R Us, the Natural History Museum, and best of all....the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show! (First photo is an adorable pug at the dog show, taken by my eight year old daughter, Natalie).


Barosaurus at the Natural History Museum.




Anakin and Obi Wan at Toys R Us, 44th Street, NYC.




Statue of Liberty, Lego-Style, Toys R Us.




Topiary Bushes (I mean poodles...heh heh) at Westminster.




A whole bunch of wieners.




Penny, American Girl Doll, and Daughter on 42nd Street.





A Wiener!/Winner!....Chewie, the Sweetest Doxie Ev-ah!



Hope everyone had a festive Valentine's Day! Love, Penny


Friday, February 11, 2011

Chocolate! 'Tis the season.



Chocolate! We all love it, crave it, become obsessed by it, particularly at certain times of the month. (You know what I'm talking about, ladies.) Perhaps it's our inner child demanding to be let out. But chocolate and romance go hand in hand. Think Valentine's Day, so fast approaching. Think the research saying women who eat chocolate regularly have a better sex life. So no wonder romance writers are fascinated by the stuff. I thought I'd include some interesting facts about the substance here. And to find an erudite source, I went to the experts -- articles written for kids. I found the following tidbits in the National Geographic Kids magazine, February 2011 issue, so all the research credit goes to their staff.

Fact #1 Chocolate is made from seeds of the cacao plant, grown only near the equator.

Fact #2 Theobroma cacao is the scientific name for chocolate. It means "food of the gods."

Fact #3 The ancient Aztec believed chocolate had magical properties.

Fact #4 There are 30 to 50 seeds in each cacao pod, which is football-shaped. That can make seven bars of milk chocolate.

Fact #5 Average Americans eat roughly 12 pounds of chocolate per year.

Fact #6 As early as 1000 B.C., the ancient Olmec are believed to be the first people to use the cacao plant.

Fact #7 Just one whiff of chocolate can make people feel happy. A chemical in cacao releases "feel-good" vibes in the brain.

Fact #8 Chocolate has a natural chemical in it that helps suppress coughs, so eat up next time you have a cold.

Fact #9 It would take 15,133,852,800 Hershey bar squares laid end to end to reach the moon.

The magazine lists more interesting facts, but I thought I'd stop here. I need to go now. I've gotten a bit hungry, go figure. If you can resist impulsively searching for chocolate of your own for a few more moments, let me know what else you've come across about this "food of the gods."

Michelle

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Quirky Bit O' Music




This is a fabulous rendition of Smooth Criminal by the cellists Stjepan Hauser and Luka Sulic. Enjoy!

Monday, February 7, 2011

What's Sexy?

Honestly, I'm all for the only non-profit community-owned professional sports team in America winning the Subperbowl. Go Packers!

But what I really want to talk about is that freaking Doritos commercial. You know the one...

Maybe it's an occupational hazzard, but I spend a lot of time thinking about what's sexy and what's not. For example, the other day I got it in my head that I wanted to describe something as spongy. And I tried. I really, really tried to work it into my scene - because the object in question does feel spongy. But then I had to accept what countless other authors have no doubt had to come to terms with in the past - there is no way to make "spongy" sexy. There just isn't.

So what is sexy? Love? Yes! Romance? You bet! Erotic romance? Oh, hell yes! Homo-erotic imagry in commercials? It sells! You don't believe me? Look at the picture above again. Is that how your coworkers behave? And note that even Doritos apparently thought they'd taken it too far, since they felt the need to put wedding rings on both the men. Those kinds of details don't happen by accident in advertising.

And what's not sexy? Finger-sucking! Oh, wait... I am certain this can be a very sexy thing to do. If you'd asked me before yesterday, I might have told you that it's always a sexy thing to do. But I would have been wrong.

When that man sucked his coworker's finger into his mouth, I (a woman who I think we can all agree has a very strong fondness for homo-erotic imagry) screeched like a banshee. It was hilarious. It was disturbing. And it sure as heck was incedibly effective marketing (because here I am, talking about it and craving that nacho cheese goodness every time I type the word Doritos). But definitely not sexy.

So does this ruin finger-sucking for everyone? Definitely not. As my wise friend Eric Ruben commented last night, it's not in the dust, it's in the delivery.

And thanks to the Frito-Lay corporation, I have finger-sucking on the brain today. I wonder what I'll write about tonight...

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Yinz Guys Reddy For Da Game?

It ain't easy being a native Pittsburgher in New England. I am surrounded by rabid Patriots fans. So, I'd like to apologize in advance if I offend anyone while I wave my Terrible Towel and chug some Iron City beers during the Superbowl. I wouldn't want to rub it in....you know, about the fact that the PITTSBURGH FREAKIN' STEELERS are in the Superbowl, and the New England Patriots are....well...probably sitting at home, eating nachos.

No offense. Seriously.

Here's a fun vid showing the awesome superiority of Steel over Cheese.

I don't think we need to get into a discussion about whose hair is better....Troy Polamalu or Tom Brady. (Troy)

Happy Superbowl Sunday!
Penny

Friday, February 4, 2011

Quirky Bit O' News



Here's a nice Bostonian story. A woman lost her 3-foot pet boa constrictor on a Boston subway car a month ago...she had the snake around her neck (!!!) when somehow it escaped. The lost snake (named Penelope! Win!) was discovered on a subway car this week, and rescued by a train attendant. Penelope's owner is overjoyed to be reunited with her scaly friend. And she's still planning on taking Penelope out into public. Oh joy for Bostonians everywhere.

Happy Weekend from The Quirky Ladies!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Happy Groundhog Day!


It's Feb. 2, time for the most celebrated of all holidays....Groundhog Day. Unfortunately for those of us living in the New England area, the groundhog is unable to make an appearance since he's buried beneath 5 ft of snow, ice and freezing rain. Hopefully he'll survive and drag himself to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania for the festivities.

Anyone looking for a quirky activity for the day (since we're all house-bound and it's a school snow day!), I would suggest watching one of my all-time favorite movies, Groundhog Day, with Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell. It's hilarious!

Best of luck to groundhogs everywhere,
Penny

Friday, January 28, 2011

Quirky Bit O' Fashion



There are plenty of celebrities rocking a quirky style. Rihanna's kooky red hair. Johnny Depps' blue glasses and fedora. Lady Gaga's meat dress. But my favorite is Helena Bonham Carter. She always looks like she just escaped from a wind tunnel. When asked recently about her innovative style of dressing, she responded "For me, fashion is all about fantasy and putting unlikely things together. That's what I love." Her outfit at the 2011 Golden Globes is typical. It's a Vivienne Westwood dress and mismatched shoes. Red and green...maybe it's for Christmas!


This ensemble is wicked witch meets housefrau meets old Jewish guy (socks and cardigan). Love it!



This is just...um....black shoes with hunks of satin and a chenille snake? I'm not sure. Oh yeah, and some rags in her hair. 

Well, I'm not sure if Helena won a Golden Globe. But I'm nominating her for Quirkiest Celebrity Dresser of the week. Congrats!


Happy Friday,
Penny

Sunday, January 23, 2011

People Watching - An Essential Tool in a Writer's Toolkit

People watching has always been one of my favorite things to do. Observing human behavior can be amusing, confounding, poignant, even irritating. A simple smile or touch, an act of kindness no one else notices (seemingly), or an act of bonehead proportions that makes me realize my friend Joe is right - half the world are jerks. Time for me to put my favorite pair of rose-colored glasses back on, but I digress.

After a lot of thought (I'm a Libra, we weigh all our options forever until ready to take any plunge), I have decided I will likely (see how my scales are still balancing there) purchase a condo or small house this year. I saw five properties in one day. On this rapid fire Sunday everyone I met brought me back to my favorite part of people watching, it's always grist for the mill of character development.

People watching can be so illuminating, especially when you are plotting your current WIP and working on character sketches. This weekend while looking at various properties, I felt like an actor doing Improv. Going from property to property, meeting real estate after real estate agent, reminded me that there are so many different types of people in this world, many of whom do the same job, but approach it from so many varied directions.

There was the long-term real estate agent that scuffed at a neophyte such as myself, forcing me to get my game on and ask real questions so at least I would know what I was doing at the next property I saw.

There was the geeky agent with a nervous laugh, who couldn't look me in the eye, but admitted he was the owner's cousin and they were just throwing him a bone. Even though I knew the property wasn't for me, I still took his card. I guess I threw him a bone too.

There was the bewildered agent struggling to unload an undesirable property, doing her best to keep herself interested, while trying to get me to want to buy it. I stayed for 20 minutes because she reminded me one of my aunts, and I felt bad she had to waste her Sunday in a home that will be on the market for months, I'm sure, since it was over-priced, falling apart and came with creepy neighbors peering through windows to see what was going on next door.

There was the pushy agent who swore he had so many potential buyers that unless I gave him a check today to hold the property, had 20 percent to put down and could move in February, I was wasting his time. I made him show me three condo options. Yes, I did waste his time, not because I couldn't afford the property, but because I would never buy anything from him.

Then at the last property, which I almost didn't bother with because I was tired, I found a real potential property of interest, and a real estate agent who was kind, thoughtful and really wanted to make sure I find the right place for me. She had six other buyers she was showing the property to at the same time, yet found a way to make us all feel welcome. Regardless of what happens with the property I saw, this very nice lady is now my real estate agent.

As writers, we spend a lot of time in our heads. We are all borderline schizophrenics if we are really honest about it - after all, multiple people talk to each other and have whole lives inside our heads. Observing our own behavior, and the behavior of the people we meet is a great way to add nuances to our characters, so they remain as alive in our heads and hearts as they are to our readers on the written page.

Happy People Watching!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Quirky Bit O' News


Here's a quirky bit o' news for the week....hee hee! I love this! From Germany.....

"An owl that had evidently drunk too much Schnapps from two discarded bottles was so inebriated that it got picked up by police. The bird will be released once it has sobered up.

'A woman walking her dog alerted police after seeing the bird sitting by the side of the road oblivious to passing traffic,' Frank Otruba, spokesman for the police in the southwestern city of Pforzheim, told SPIEGEL ONLINE." (From Spiegel Online International).

The owl was not subjected to a breathalyzer, but one of its eyelids was drooping!

I hope the owl enjoyed the Schnapps.

Happy Week,
Penny

P.S. Please don't forget to vote for Sam's review at The Romance Studio. Voting is open until Sunday, Jan 16! Thanks!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Little Tiny Squee

First, let me say that I'm really, really sorry that I've been so long between posts to the Quirky Blog. It's not because of a lack of love or desire for being a part of the blogosphere. It's that I have this crazy job that keeps me away from the thing I truly love -writing in any form. Novel, blog, an email to my poor friend Amy in Tacoma who probably thinks I'm dead it's been so long - all have been waiting for me to get some headspace and put pen to paper. Well, okay, fingers to keyboard, but you get the idea.

Anyway, the point is that no matter what - you name it, I like to write it.

A close second on my list of joys is reading. And nothing makes me more stupid giddy than reading a review for something I wrote. Good, bad and ugly - it means someone read it, took an interest and is being kind enough to offer me and my potential readers their feedback. Now sure, a bad review can make a girl cry, but a good one can make a girl's week!

And here's a goodie for sure:




And as if that wasn't enough to make me do a happy dance, I'm up for 5-Heart Sweetheart of the Week. If you think that's just as great as I do, please vote for me HERE.

So, that's all for me. I know - too short. But it's baby steps for now. Maybe someday I'll be able to quit the pesky job, but until then, I will carve out more time for The Quirks and my characters.

In fact, I think I hear Patrick, Brandon and Destiny calling me now...