Friday, November 30, 2012

All I Want For Christmas Is ...

Technically it's Hanukkah and Christmas since we celebrate both, but the answer to the question remained the same: Shoes. Yup – that’s the response I got when I asked my fifteen year old for gift ideas this year. Oh – did I mention this is my fifteen year old son? Not that I’m sexist or anything, but had I said my teen daughter, you probably would just be shaking your head, mumbling, “Teens.”

photo credit: sling@flickr via photopin cc
I’m personally not surprised by his response, my son has been shoe obsessed for at least three years now. I can remember the days when I could walk into Target, pick up one pair of sneakers and one pair of boots in his size and call it a day (or at least a season). Not anymore. Nope – he started getting picky . . . and playing sports, so we had to get him a different pair of sneakers for each sport that met with his approval. Then he wanted shoes that were for the training of the sport (because for some unknown reason, the sneakers he had couldn’t be used for that purpose), and finally he wanted “street” shoes to add to the portfolio. Those are just the athletic shoes sneakers. Then we have boots and dress shoes. That was last year - his feet grew - to a whopping size 13!

This year, he’s asking for multiple sneakers of each kind in different colors plus the boots. "Mom - I got have my swag on." Oookay... Oh did I mention that these shoes were inexpensive? No? That’s probably because they’re not!

I honestly have no idea where this kid gets this shoe thing from. I only have one pair of sneakers and just a few pairs of boots . . .



Oh.


Happy shopping everyone!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Author Spotlight: Alison DeLuca

Hi everyone! Today we have a really cool Author Spotlight. A while back, I met an author online named Alison DeLuca. We were instant friends, and it turned out that she only lived about 90 minutes away and was friends with someone I had met a few years back at my child's bus stop! Talk about a small world! Anyway, last month, we met in person at a writer's conference where we were both panelists. It was there, that I had a chance to finally check out her books. Alison writes Steam Punk which is a genre I honestly knew nothing about, but since I've been venturing into new genres lately (and for the most part have been enjoying them), I thought why not? At the end of the conference, we traded books and promised to meet up for coffee (Psst - Alison - we still need to do this!)

The book Alison gave me is called  Night Watchman Express. It is the first book in a series of three that make up the Crown Phoenix Series. I've posted my review below - but here's  what I thought in a nutshell: I loved it so much that I went out and purchased the next two books!  Okay ... now on to my *proper* review of all three of Alison's books (& hopefully without any spoilers):

Night Watchman Express

Poor Miriam Pearson has just lost her father, although to be honest, she really didn't like him to begin with. However, compared to the couple sent as her guardians, she would have preferred her father.

All hope seems lost until a mysterious governess from a far away island named Mana shows up to take charge and protect Miriam from her greedy guardians the Marchpanes and their evil business partners the Cantwells.

To pass the time, Miriam writes stories both in her journal and on her father's prized, yet mysterious "writing ball", the Crown Phoenix. She also enjoys hanging out with the Marchpanes' son Simon & his friend Neil . At night she fears the whistle of the Night Watchman Express - the steam train that passes through and haunts her dreams.

I just loved this story! There is so much going on right from the beginning, with the arrival of the Marchpanes & Mana. I loved all the characters brought into this story and the way the author described and developed them.  I felt I was living right alongside Miriam in her big old house. I have to admit, I had never read steam punk before and did not know what to expect. What I found was a great story which took place in Edwardian times. So many times, first books of series can be disappointing as the author spends way too much time on the back story and not enough time on plot. Not true here - there were plenty of plot twists, as well as a great ending! This book is perfect for adults and teens. I immediately downloaded the next book, Devil's Kitchen and couldn't wait to get started.


Devil's Kitchen

In this second book of the Crown Phoenix series, Miriam & Simon find themselves as captives after an unexpected ride on the Nightwatchman Express. While Simon winds up with luxury accommodations (albeit still a prisoner), Miriam is stuck underground in Devil's Kitchen, working long hours and living in a tiny cell. Lucky for them, Neil and Mana (who we learn at the end of book one is not quite who we thought) are on a quest to help Miriam and Simon escape.

This second book moves between Miriam's, Neil's, and Simon's stories all taking place at the same time. There is so much action and some great new characters (who we met at the end of book one) such as Riki & Kyoge. This installment brings us closer to learning the secrets behind the writing ball known as the Crown Phoenix. Another great book by Alison DeLuca. Once again, I immediately downloaded the next book!


Lamplighter's Special

This is the third book in the Crown Phoenix series. Here we get to meet Neil's family and learn about their story. In particular his sisters Ninna & Lizzie, who are now working as housemaids on a farm for a Squire and his two sons Toby and Priam.

In this book, we find out even more about the mysterious Crown Phoenix and the passage to get to and from Lampala on the even more mysterious ship, the Lamplighter's Special.

We also become reacquainted with the Cantwells who are now known as the Wilkins, and are as evil as ever as they continue their quest to become rich by harvesting illegal drugs.

I love how this fabulous book goes off on a side story and then reels itself back in to connect with the main story. Alison does such a great job with story development in this book, and I love the romantic elements that are subtly brought in (while still keeping everything appropriate for teens). With many questions answered, we are still left with so many unknowns! I'm so looking forward to the next book! (And here is where I enter my plea: Write Faster!!)


About Alison Deluca:


Alison DeLuca grew up on an organic farm in Chester County, Pennsylvania.  Her parents were British, so in the summers she went to stay with her grandparents near Dublin.

There was no stereo or TV there, so Alison, her sister, and her cousins spent the summer inventing stories and plays for each other.  “This gave me the ability to entertain myself with my own imagination in any situation,” she says. “We used to be taken to tea with great-aunts, and we were expected to sit on an uncomfortable couch and not move or say a word.  It was possible to endure it because I was watching my own little stories play out in my mind.”

After graduating from West Chester University, Alison became a teacher of English and Spanish, teaching students from kindergarten up to college level. She loved teaching, and it was with reluctance that she left the classroom to be a fulltime mom when her daughter was born.

While she was teaching and raising her daughter, Alison took every free minute she had to write.  The Crown Phoenix Series was the result.

She is currently working on the final book in the series, as well as several other projects.


You can find Alison here:


Book links:

KINDLE
Crown Phoenix: Night Watchman Express Amazon US http://bit.ly/CPNWEus
Crown Phoenix: Night Watchman Express Amazon UK http://bit.ly/CPNWEuk
Crown Phoenix: The Devil’s Kitchen Amazon US http://bit.ly/CPTDKus
Crown Phoenix: The Devil’s Kitchen Amazon UK http://bit.ly/CPTDKuk
Crown Phoenix: Lamplighter’s Special Amazon US http://bit.ly/CPLSus
Crown Phoenix: Lamplighter’s Special Amazon UK http://bit.ly/CPLSuk

NOOK
Crown Phoenix: Night Watchman Express http://bit.ly/CPNWEnook
Crown Phoenix: The Devil’s Kitchen http://bit.ly/CPTDKnook
Crown Phoenix: Lamplighter’s Special http://bit.ly/CPLSnook


Thanks Alison!


Thursday, November 22, 2012

Gratitude

We interrupt this week's Author Spotlight for Thanksgiving.

Of course, I love spending time with family and friends and food – OH THE FOOD! But, I truly love Thanksgiving for reminding us of all the things we have to be grateful for every day. Like so many, I am thankful I am able to celebrate Thanksgiving with a hot meal. I’m thankful to have my family and my friends. And I’m thankful for my freedom and my safety.

photo credit: CarbonNYC via photopin cc
This year, however, I want to express my gratitude for something more... I’m thankful for the chance to do what I love. Some people are lucky. They know exactly what they want to be “when they grow up.” The “it” factor ...that one thing you just know you were meant to do with your life.

Some of you who may have seen my previous posts on this subject know that my career choices as a child ranged from the next Marie Osmond all the way to the head of the Securities and Exchange Commission. I majored in Finance, went to law school, passed the bar, worked briefly in law, and became a tax accountant. Don’t get me wrong – I actually really enjoy doing taxes (It’s true). Yet, while I love doing taxes, I knew it wasn’t my it. A few years ago, after one tax season, I started writing. I don’t know what prompted it, but once I started, I couldn’t stop. I quickly realized that writing was my it.

But having found my it is only part of my gratitude. I’m actually thankful this year for the chance to be able to take my it to the next level – a career. As you know, this year I published my third book, I’ve had a short story published in an anthology, and I’ve even won a bunch of writing awards. Thanks to an amazing year, my it is no longer that little thing I do on the side. My it is now THE thing . . . the Grand-Daddy of all things, and I’m so grateful to my family, friends, and readers for all of the love and support you have given me this year.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Xo
Karen

PS – Stop by Millie’s blog to read about what she is thankful for this season.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Author Spotlight: Pavarti K. Tyler

Happy Thursday before Thanksgiving! It's also Author Spotlight day, and today I'm super excited to have my friend, fellow number cruncher, and author Pavarti K. Tyler here. Pavarti writes in many different genres. I'm a big fan of her fantasy serial novel Two Moons of Sera. You can read my reviews of volumes one and two here. I still owe Pavarti a review of volume 3. So in a nutshell, here it is:  I loved it even more than volumes one and two!! As I patiently wait for the release of volume four, I'm thrilled to have Pavarti stop by with a guest post for us today:


Clan of the Cave Bear is more than just Neanderthal Porn - by Pavarti K Tyler

I remember sitting in a friend's basement, surrounded by Ikea furniture and watching Clan of the Cave Bear when her Dad wasn't home from work yet. It was one of those winter snow days when I was too young to be allowed free reign but too old to be stuck in the house with my mother. Little did she know what trouble a couple of middle school girls could get into in a small town house development in the middle of the day.

It wasn't until a few years later when I bought a copy of Jean M. Auel's novel for myself that I understood that Ayla's story wasn't just about sex and rape. I've never seen the movie again, so perhaps this is an issue of maturity, or perhaps it's just that the soul of the book was lost in translation from page to screen.

Clan of the Cave Bear was about so much more. It covered anthropology, sociology, genetics, geology, psychology, evolution and many many other topics. The issues of gender discrimination, prejudice and what it means to be human were all covered. Oh and there was a lot of sex in the series too.

When I started drafting the storyline for Two Moons of Sera I wanted to build a world. A complete, three dimensional world, for my characters to live in. Because this happens in a place so different from our own it was essential to distill the similarities we could relate to while highlighting and explaining the differences. I looked back at other books I'd read where the landscape of the story was so different from our own to try and get advice from those who had done it so well.

Battle Field Earth (shut up, it's brilliant) didn't offer much help as it is about aliens and accentuating differences. The Wind-up Girl (also brilliant) didn't give me any insight because it's a post-apocalyptical look at our own world. What I needed was an innocence, a purity of vision that would allow the world of Two Moons of Sera to seem natural.

There was a time when I would read Clan of the Cave Bear over and over. I even named the first dog I got as a puppy Ayla. It's exactly the complexity of Auel's world building that makes it feel so natural. This is what I wanted to 2MOS.

As I write I ask myself, is there something about this we need to understand? Is there something here that goes deeper than just the surface story? Are there aspects of life, science, history that would add dimension to the world?

In Two Moons you will find three completely different, and yet hopefully relatable species of people. You will come to know their fears, their bedtime stories, their eating habits and their mating practices. In the end I hope you will feel so emerged in their world that as you learn more about them, it will deepen your understanding and connection to the characters.

Because in the end it's about the soul of the story.

About Pavarti K. Tyler:


Pavarti K Tyler is an artist, wife, mother and number cruncher. She graduated Smith College in 1999 with a degree in Theatre. After graduation, she moved to New York, where she worked as a Dramaturge, Assistant Director and Production Manager on productions both on and off Broadway.

Later, Pavarti went to work in the finance industry as a freelance accountant for several international law firms. She now operates her own accounting firm in the Washington DC area, where she lives with her husband, two daughters and two terrible dogs. When not preparing taxes, she is hard at work as the Director of Publicity at Novel Publicity and penning her next novel.

Connect with Pavarti K. Tyler:

Website
Facebook
Twitter
Google +
Pinterest


Thanks for stopping by! Now get back to writing, Pav - I need my 2MOS fix!


**************

PSST! Today's my birthday and I'm giving you presents! It's more fun that way!!

First - pick up your FREE Kindle Copy of Nate Rocks the Boat!

Then - head over to my  Facebook Author Page to try to win SWAG & other prizes all day long! Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

IPad Mini Review by a Non Tech Apple Loving Girl

I'm not ashamed to admit I was watching for the UPS man all day yesterday. He had something I couldn't wait to get my hands on! Stop... This is a family friendly blog! I'm talking about the iPad Mini I ordered. Well really it was a birthday present for me, but my hubby & I agreed I could open it a few days early. After all, I only had 14 days to play around with it to decide if I wanted to keep it or trade it in for a different tablet.

My hubby was convinced I would hate it. He'd read the less than stellar reviews. But he just doesn't get the whole Apple thing. I on the other hand, drank the Apple Kool-Aid last year with the purchase of my beloved MacBook Pro. Within a few months I had traded in my Android phone for the iPhone 4S. The whole iPad thing intrigued me as an Apple lover, but I just didn't see a need for it, until I suddenly found myself in the market for a smaller tablet. Originally, I was going for a Kindle Fire, but then the rumors about a smaller iPad started.  Hmmm....

So I stalked the Internet daily, trying to find out any news about the release of this rumored product. And then - finally, it was announced! I preordered one on the first available day. I watched the UPS site as my new toy left China, made stops in Japan, Alaska, and Kentucky before finally making its way here to Pennsylvania. I cheered every time my delivery date was moved up. (I have issues - I know - let's move on).

Anyway, here I am. With my new iPad Mini. I've never owned an iPad, so for those wondering how it stacks up against the iPad, I can't really help you. I also am clueless when it comes to comparing specs. So sorry there as well. But I know what I like and what works for my needs, and I can pretty much sum up how I feel about this tablet with one word ... Love!

Besides the size & sleekness which are perfect and very Apple-esque, the iPad Mini was super easy to set up. Everything immediately synced with my other devices ( which was one of the main reasons I wanted it. Go cloud!) My music from iTunes plus my Kindle books were all ready to go. All of my iPhone apps transferred over (although some don't have iPad counterparts, but not a huge deal).

Now I can read backlit books on a screen larger than my iPhone ... Oh happy eyes! Plus, I have the Nook & iBooks app as well, so I'm not limited to Kindle. Another reason I opted out of getting the Kindle Fire ... I'm guessing the Nook app is unavailable on that device.

The battery on the Mini claims to last 10 hrs. Mine came 86% charged and after about 6 hours of use with my wifi on, it's at 52%. Speaking of wifi, the speed seems compatible with my iPhone (which is great in some parts of my house & not so great in others, but I'm guessing that is not a fault of the device).

I've read that some people have complained about the graphics. Yes, there is a difference in sharpness from my iPhone 4S to the iPad Mini, but for me it is barely noticeable (says the girl who can't tell when the television is on a regular channel vs an HD channel). It may be more noticeable to someone else.

Iphone 4S picture is slightly sharper - but not a deal killer for me...


So there you have it. This non-tech Apple loving girl won't need 14 days to decide after all. It's a keeper for me!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Review-A-Thon For Hurricane Relief

My friend and fellow blogger, Amanda, has a heart of gold. Upon hearing of all the destruction from Hurricane Sandy, she decided to host a review-a-thon this weekend to bring awareness to the devastation and to help raise money. She is not accepting pledges, but rather asking that people donate directly to the Red Cross and other organizations that are assisting in the cleanup efforts. As I type this post, she is on review number six. Those of you who write book reviews know how much work goes into each review.

Check out her website: Living, Learning, and Loving Life for her reviews and details of how you can help! You will find links to donate to the Red Cross and the Salvation Army as well as a link to sign up for blood donation, plus links to several other organizations collecting on behalf of the hurricane victims.  You can even enter to win a $20 Amazon Gift Card, generously donated by Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dave just for the event.



I hope everyone who is dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy is now safe and warm. Thanks everyone for your support!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Author Spotlight: Merry Farmer

Hi all!! For those looking for the Author Spotlight last week, I do apologize. Unfortunately Hurricane Sandy decided I needed a break and took away my electricity and internet. But I'm back - and this week, I had the pleasure of interviewing historical romance writer, Merry Farmer.


Welcome Merry! Please tell us about your current release.

My latest release is The Courageous Heart. It’s the third book in the Noble Hearts trilogy (which begins with The Loyal Heart and continues with The Faithful Heart). This book is about the love story of Ethan and Joanna which has, in many ways, been brewing since the trilogy started. A lot of this book is about the consequences of Ethan’s actions in the first two books and about his redemption.

What inspired you to write this book?

Well, there are two big things that inspired me to write The Courageous Heart. On the one hand, I’m fascinated with the true history of the time period, which is very different than what everyone thinks they know from the Robin Hood legend. In fact, Richard was a terrible king who didn’t speak English, hated England, and only spent 6 months of his entire reign there. This novel take place during the three-month span in 1194 when he was actually home. Prince John, however, was devoted to England and because of his feudal obligations was actually responsible for administrating a large part of it. I’ve always loved the paradox between what people think they know and what actually happened. The theme of the entire trilogy revolves around that inconsistency in “common knowledge”.

On the other hand, I wanted to write a book about redemption. My editor (Alison Dasho) and several others commented after reading The Faithful Heart “How on earth is Joanna ever going to forgive Ethan after what he’s done?” The answer is simple. There has always been so much more going on with Ethan than the first two books in the series have let on. Now the reader will get to see what it all is!

Who is one of your favorite characters that you have written?

 Without a doubt, my favorite character so far is Jack. Jack is the “side-kick” in The Loyal Heart and the hero of The Faithful Heart. Jack was born a peasant, but through luck, determination, and attitude managed to rise up to the rank of nobility with his own land and title. He’s just so much fun to write! I love having a character with a distinct way of speaking. His dialog always gives me a chuckle. I should also note that even though The Courageous Heart marks the end of the trilogy, I have so many more ideas for books that happen in this world. Jack figures prominently in some of those.

When and how do you find time to write in your daily life?

Oh boy! Finding time to write is my biggest challenge as a writer. I would love it if writing were my full-time job, and someday it will be, but for now I have to struggle to find time to write. When I knew it was time to get serious about writing, the first thing I did was stop watching TV. That freed up a lot of time. I also get up at 5:30 every morning and work for about an hour before I start to get ready for work. When I’m in the final throes of a novel I will work over my lunch at my day job and in the evening between dinner and bedtime. Which brings me to….

Any advice to aspiring writers?

If you’re going to be serious about writing then you have to be serious about it. That means making sacrifices, like getting up early, working on your lunch break, and not going out at night because you have to write. It’s hard, hard work, but if this is what you were born to do then it’s hard work you will be happy to do. My other piece of advice would be to keep a very open mind when it comes to the writing and publishing process. The publishing world is changing so fast that none of us can say “I’ll never self-publish” or “I’m never going to go the traditional route”. Try both. Try submitting to agents. Try publishing something on your own. Each path can only help the other. But never say never.


Yes - great advice! What is one thing that you could not live without?

My iPhone, whose name is Oliver. It’s sad, I know. I’m completely addicted to it. But hey, smart phones can do anything! I have the internet, Facebook, Twitter, music, books, maps, weather, shopping, basically everything right in my hand. Oliver is my boyfriend. He’s always there for me, he knows how to help me in any situation, he entertains me, and he always gives me his undivided attention.

I love that! I think I'll name mine too! Do you have any hobbies?

 Actually, I do, believe it or not. I am a massive cricket fan. Yes, I’m American, I’m a girl, and I love cricket. I don’t play, but I am the official scorer for a local club team in the Philadelphia area. I’m also working on becoming an internationally certified scorer.

That's pretty cool! If you could have a superpower what would it be?

I was just thinking about this the other day, believe it or not. If I could have any superpower I would want the ability to heal people by touching them. Scratch, sudden illness, gaping wound, chronic condition, anything. I lost my Granddad to a heart attack when I was 8, my Mom after an 8 year struggle with breast cancer in 2001, my Grandmother to Parkinson’s Disease in 2007, and my older brother to cancer very suddenly in April of this year. I would give anything to have been able to heal all of that for them and for everyone who suffers.


That would definitely be an amazing super power! Anything additional you want to share with the readers?

I hope that I’ve intrigued you enough that you’ll rush out and buy my books, but I definitely advise starting with The Loyal Heart before moving on, in order, to The Faithful Heart and The Courageous Heart. They are a true trilogy and not really stand-alone stories.

But if you’re interested in Western Romance, my aim is that each novel in my Montana Romance series will stand alone. The first one of those, Our Little Secrets, is out now, and the second, Fool for Love, is my next project. I’m shooting for a Spring 2013 release date.


Where can people find you and your books online? 

All of my books are available as eBook pretty much wherever eBooks are sold.

To Learn More About Merry Farmer and Her Books:

Website: http://merryfarmer.net
Twitter: @merryfarmer20
Facebook: www.facebook.com/merryfarmerauthor


Book links:

The Loyal Heart

Amazon - http://www.amazon.com/dp/B005R4K75W
B&N - http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-loyal-heart-merry-farmer/1106051739?ean=2940011541537
Sony eReader Store - http://ebookstore.sony.com/ebook/merry-farmer/the-loyal-heart/_/R-400000000000000527599
Smashwords - https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/92993


The Faithful Heart

Amazon - http://www.amazon.com/dp/B006PUDD44
B&N - http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-faithful-heart-merry-farmer/1108068341?ean=2940032960553
Sony eReader Store - http://ebookstore.sony.com/ebook/merry-farmer/the-faithful-heart/_/R-400000000000000592585
Smashwords - https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/117240


The Courageous Heart









Our Little Secrets

Amazon - http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0087KI4T4
Smashwords - https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/167282
B&N - http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/our-little-secrets-merry-farmer/1111649170?ean=2940033267514






Sunday, November 4, 2012

We Interrupt this Halloween...

Last year, Hurricane Irene decided to show up just in time for my two youngest children's birthday parties. One we were able to squeeze in, one we had to reschedule.  This year, Hurricane Sandy decided to visit - just in time for Halloween. Before you start feeling bad for my children ... don't. Let me explain.

As you know, Halloween is on the 31st. That was last Wednesday. Many parts of our township were without power. There were trees and power lines down in several neighborhoods. In a nutshell, there were plenty of neighborhoods that were just to unsafe for children to be trick or treating.

So the township did the responsible thing - they sent out word that Trick or Treating would be postponed until Friday night - - and then they changed their minds stating that since Halloween was not a township sponsored event, they really couldn't change the date and that trick or treaters should be expected on both Wednesday and Friday, depending on the conditions of the individual neighborhoods.

To my tween, this read as "BONUS - we get to trick or treat on both nights!" Yup, that's what my twelve year old did. In typical tween fashion, she went out without a costume and said she was a werewolf except since it wasn't a full moon, she hadn't changed over yet. Clever, I'll give her that.

Every year on Halloween, we usually go to a friend's house a few towns over to trick or treat with them. This year, their township postponed Halloween to Saturday night. Yup - my tween came with us to trick or treat yet again! For those keeping count, that's three full bags of candy.  The other two only went out once, but we've got more than enough treats to go around.

photo credit: Juushika Redgrave via photopin cc


See? I told you not to feel bad for my kids. So, thanks Sandy, and don't worry, we'll be buying extra toothpaste this season as well.



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