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, 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