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Archive for August, 2011

Twelves Pieces of Advice For First Dates

Going out with someone new can be nerve-racking and stressful. I’m currently researching a new story where first dates are involved, and here are some commonsense suggestions I’ve discovered to get through that date without breaking a sweat. I’ll definitely be using these in my fictional first date…or not!

1. Don’t call it a date. Keep it casual and keep the pressure off.

2. Limit the length of the date. If the date is a disaster, it’s best not to prolong it! Choose an activity such as coffee or a walk in the park or go for a drink.

3. Have a backup plan in case something goes wrong.

4. Don’t be late. It sets a bad impression.

5. Agree on what to wear so neither of you are surprised when you meet for the date.

6. Groom appropriately i.e. wear a deodorant and make sure you don’t still have lunch stuck in your teeth.

7. Don’t drink too much alcohol.

8. Be assertive without being aggressive. Make decisions but don’t be too bossy!

9. Go somewhere quiet so that you can hear each other talk and get to know each other.

10. Don’t talk about your ex! No one wants to hear about the one who got away.

11. Offer compliments if there is something about your date that you like.

12. Don’t do all the talking. Listen as well.

I didn’t date that much, since I met my husband when I was quite young, but I do remember a first date where the guy reeked of garlic and wanted to kiss. Yuck!

Do you have any advice for first dates or any first date horror stories?

Raspberry Surprise Muffins

Raspberry Surprise Muffins

Raspberry Surprise Muffins

This is an Alison Holst recipe, and one that I make frequently because I really like the combination of raspberry and coffee.

2 cups self-raising flour (or 2 cups plain flour & 2 teaspoons baking powder)
½ cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
100 grams butter (3.5 ounces or 1 stick butter)
1 egg
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon instant coffee
Rind of 1 lemon
½ cup raspberry jam
¼ cup sifted icing sugar (powdered sugar)
1 – 2 teaspoons lemon juice

Place flour, sugar, cinnamon and cloves in a large bowl. Melt the butter. Dissolve the instant coffee in the milk and add the beaten egg and lemon rind. Add the liquids (butter and milk mix) to the dry ingredients. Fold together but don’t overmix.

Fill a 12 muffin pan with muffin cases. Half fill each case then make a tiny well in the center. Place a teaspoon of raspberry jam in the well. Divide the remaining mixture between the muffin cases, covering all the jam.

Bake at 200 C for 10 – 12 minutes. Once the muffins are almost cool, make the icing/frosting. Mix the icing sugar with just enough lemon juice to make a thin icing/frosting. Drizzle over the top of the muffins.

Serve with a cup of coffee and enjoy!

The Connection: Characters and Real Life Experience

This is the final day of my Lone Wolf virtual tour. I’m visiting Sara York’s blog and talking about authors, life experience and characters. Is there a connection between an author’s life experience and their writing?

Don’t forget–if you comment on my post at Sara’s blog you’ll be in the draw to win a $20 Amazon voucher.

Thirteen Differences Between Wolves & Dogs

Thursday Thirteen

Wolves have loomed large on my mind recently with the release of my latest book Lone Wolf, so this week I thought the differences between wolves and dogs would make an excellent TT topic.

WolfBella - dog

Thirteen Differences Between Wolves and Dogs

1. The skeletons of wolf and dog are quite different. There are diagrams on In the Company of Wolves which show the difference between the two.

2. Dogs behave like adolescent wolves throughout their lives while wolves mature in their behavior.

3. Wolves don’t shed like dogs. They lose their winter coats in spring and grow a summer coat. Our puppy seems to shed constantly!

4. Wolves tend to do what they want to do whenever the mood strikes them, while dogs happily wait for their owners.

5. Wolves seldom bark while barking is the main method of communication for a dog.

6. Wolves typically ingest fur, bones and other things while these things would make a domestic dog ill.

7. The muzzle of a wolf is typically much longer than a dogs.

8. Every wolf in the pack helps to raise the pups. They regurgitate food for the pups. Dogs don’t do this.

9. Wolves rarely kill anything for fun. When they make a kill it’s for food. Dogs can kill as a type of game i.e. to show their masters how clever they are.

10. Wolves come into heat only once a year while dogs come into heat several times.

11. Wolves have much smaller litters 2 – 4 pups. A dog can have up to 12 puppies.

12. Wolves have longer legs, bigger feet and broader skulls than dogs.

13. Wolves live in packs, which have a distinct hierarchy of alpha wolves and submissive wolves. This is apparent even with the pups in the pack.

Source: In the Company of Wolves

Note: that’s our puppy in the photo on the right. She knows she’s not meant to be up on the chair!

I’m visiting Words of Wisdom…From the Scarf Princess today. The Scarf Princess interviewed me about writing, travel and Lone Wolf, my new release from Samhain Publishing.

If you’re a regular visitor to my blog you already know how much I love to travel. Seeing different parts of the world broadens the mind and exposes us to new ideas, experiences and cultures. Personally I think it’s a great way of learning, and my experiences definitely bleed into my books.

Check out my interview, and don’t forget one commenter during my Lone Wolf blog tour will win a $20 gift card from Amazon.

Twelve Facts (?) About Werewolves

1. Legends of werewolves have been with us since Greek times and even earlier.

2. European folk law in particular is full of tales of men shifting to wolves.

3. In one of the legends, Ovid (Metamorphoses) served human flesh to Zeus. In punishment, he was changed to a wolf.

4. Lycanthropy is a mental illness where a patient believes they have transformed into a wolf.

5. Curved fingernails, red hair, eyebrows that meet, hair that grows beneath the skin are all signs of a werewolf.

6. Werewolves have superhuman strength but are vulnerable to silver bullets.

7. The vulnerability to silver only appears in tales after 1935.

8. Werewolves are very active during a full moon.

9. In some tales, a special salve is rubbed over the body and this transforms a man to werewolf.

10. Some werewolves transform after donning a wolf skin or a wolf skin belt.

11. If a werewolf bites a human, the human will become a werewolf. This method of turning is a modern invention and does not appear in early legends.

12. Many of our recent thoughts/perceptions are due to Hollywood movies and popular novels, and they bear little relation to the old legends.

Today kicks off my Lone Wolf tour. My first stop is at Book Junkie. I hope you’ll pop over and visit. Don’t forget – every time you comment on one of my Lone Wolf VBT posts you’ll go into a draw to win a $20 Amazon gift card.

What do you think about werewolves? Do you have any tidbits to add to my werewolf list?

Corey, the Werewolf, Loves Chocolate, and I Do Too!

Thursday Thirteen

Lone Wolf, my fourth Samhain Publishing release is due out on 23 August. Corey, one of the heroes has a liking for chocolate, which R.J., the other hero indulges.

“Yeah.” R.J. gave him a quick kiss and pulled a small bar of chocolate out of his pocket. He tucked it in Corey’s waistband. “Take care, kid. I don’t want anything to happen to you.”

In honor of R.J. and Corey’s story, today I’m giving you a list of my favorite chocolate things.

Thirteen Chocolate Treats That I Adore

1. Chocolate Chip Cookies – I like the ones with huge chunks of chocolate.

2. Pain Au Chocolate – preferably still warm from the oven and partnered with a latte.

3. Hot chocolate – nothing better on a cold winter’s day.

4. Chilli chocolate – very dark chocolate with the bite of chilli peppers. Very yummy!

5. Chocolate cake – rich and moist with thick chocolate icing and partnered with a glass of cold milk.

6. A chocolate milkshake – the thick kind that is hard to drink through a straw.

7. Choccywoccydoodah – I like watching this program on TV. The shop is in Brighton, England, and their cakes look amazing!

8. Whittakers Ghana Peppermint Chocolate – this is New Zealand chocolate. It’s dark chocolate with a mint filling. They have a very cool ad, which is on Youtube, but it has an over 18 warning on it because of nudity. Link to Whittakers’ ad.

9. After dinner mints – I love the combination of chocolate and mint.

10. Moritz ice creams – various flavors of ice cream with a thick coating of chocolate that crackles when you take a bite.

11. Chocolate truffles – hubby makes some delicious ones that have a hint of orange in them. Yum!

12. Double Choc Muffins – for morning tea with a cup of coffee.

13. Scorched Almonds – I usually only eat these at Christmas time. Almonds covered with a thick coating of chocolate. Very addictive because one is not enough.

What is your favorite chocolate item?

Want to Grow a Bonsai Tree?

Yesterday Mr. Munro and I were listening to the radio while driving down the motorway. Hubby listens to a fuddy-duddy station with lots of chat, but it turned out to be interesting when the discussion turned to bonsai trees.

The lady speaking about them made growing bonsais sound very easy. Hubby and I like projects, so this weekend we’ve done some research.

Although bonsai is a Japanese word, bonsai trees were first known in China back in 1000BC. They were grown as gifts to give to the wealthy and were called pun-sai.

Bonsai Tree

Bonsai are grown in shallow pots and usually kept outside. They should be kept out of direct sunlight because there’s not much moisture in the pots. Quite a few varieties of trees are suitable to turn into bonsais, including several New Zealand natives such as the pohutukawa and kowhai. The lady on the radio mentioned Japanese maples are very pretty since their leaves turn color with the seasons. Basically you choose a seedling or small “junior-sized tree” from the plant nursery. Trim one-third of the roots off the tree and also trim the leaves so you gain a nicely shaped tree. The branches can also be wired to attain an attractive shape. Special soil is required – check at your plant nursery – and of course you need your special shallow pot. Once the bonsai are established, they require yearly root trims and shaping.

We have lots of small seedlings underneath our hedge, and we thought we’d try growing a pohutukawa bonsai.

Here’s a video on how to make your own bonsai tree

Do you like bonsai trees? Have you ever grown one?

Four Rules For The Socialized Writer

My guest today is Carina Press author, Cathy Pegau. Cathy has both a new release and a cute new puppy. On the surface these two things might not have any thing in common, but read on and you might change your mind. Welcome, Cathy!

We recently adopted a six month old puppy. For a young dog, she is surprisingly well behaved and gets along with all of us. Including the cats. Dally is great, but she still needs to learn some social skills. It’s our job to make her an acceptable member of society and make interactions much more pleasant. There are certain rules to be followed, behaviors that are acceptable and those that are frowned upon. These same skills we teach our pup, I realized, can be applied to the social networking writer. So, sit. Stay. Read on.

Dally

1) Don’t bark at everything that moves.

A pup will sometimes bark at a dust bunny or the wind blowing. That gets old real fast. As an opinionated writer, I’ve learned which topics on blogs, loops and social media merit a response from me. Mostly not a lot. Consider just eavesdropping versus adding your opinion. Yes, we all know that if it’s out there you have every right to comment. But should you? Yes, getting your name out there and recognized is important, but have something to contribute. Don’t just bark for the sake of barking.

2) Wag your tail and make friends, but don’t jump on folks or slobber over them.

Puppies tend to love everyone they meet, and many people love them right back. But excessive exuberance overwhelms. I’ve told a favorite author I admire their work. It’s appreciated, but I leave it at that. Reply to their comments/posts (without gushing), but don’t follow them everywhere they go or delve into their personal lives. Stalkerish behavior creeps folks out.
The flipside of that is…

3) Don’t snap at people.

A dog, or a writer, that constantly snarls or snaps is not one folks want to be around. People will eventually stop coming near you, your blog, and your books. When you’re out and about on Twitter or loops or wherever, be respectful. Disagreement is fine, but rabid behavior can be dangerous—to your career.

4) Don’t poop in the house.

The writers’ groups, critique partners and professionals who offer advice or a helping hand (i.e.: your family) should be providing a clean, healthy environment from which you can be nurtured and grow into a strong individual. They’ve seen you through long bouts of rejections and self-doubt. Once you’ve come into your own, respect them and the “home” they made for you. Every so often, we need to go back home to recoup with the people who know us best. Don’t mess that up.

Any other advice for raising a socialized writer?

Rulebreaker, Cathy’s debut f/f science fiction romance, is out from Carina Press now.

Rulebreaker

Here’s the blurb:

Liv Braxton’s Felon Rule #1: Don’t get emotionally involved.

Smash-and-grab thieving doesn’t lend itself to getting chummy with the victims, and Liv hasn’t met anyone on the mining colony of Nevarro worth knowing, anyway. So it’s easy to follow her Rules.

Until her ex, Tonio, shows up with an invitation to join him on the job of a lifetime.

Until Zia Talbot, the woman she’s supposed to deceive, turns Liv’s expectations upside down in a way no woman ever has.

Until corporate secrets turn deadly.

But to make things work with Zia, Liv has to do more than break her Rules, and the stakes are higher than just a broken heart…

And a short excerpt:

As the elevator door closed, the door in front of me opened. Zia held a goblet of wine in one hand. The V-neck of her white lounging pajamas revealed the glint of a gold chain and less cleavage than most of her office attire. Her feet were bare, her toenails tinted blood-red. But what captured my attention was her hair. Released from its usual upsweep, it fell around her shoulders in loose chestnut waves. Relaxed. Sexy.
I swallowed hard and dug my fingernails into my palms.

“Hello, Liv.” An enigmatic smile curved her full mouth, and her eyes glinted with curiosity. “I’d ask how you knew where I lived, but you’re very good at figuring out things like that, aren’t you?”

I took a hesitant step forward. She hadn’t asked me in. Maybe she wouldn’t. Maybe she’d tell me it was too soon for us to be alone in her flat, that this wasn’t how she did things.

“Would you like to come in?” she asked.

My knees wobbled with relief and with the apprehension of what I was doing. “Yes. Thank you.”
Zia stepped back, giving me just enough space to ease past her. In my boots, I was several centis taller than she was, and this close I could smell her hair. Flowers and honey.

The white of the entry continued inside the flat, but it was by no means stark. Soft lighting accented the greens, black and gold in the furnishings, artwork and décor. The faint scent of jasmine made the room hers.
Zia closed the door, and I felt rather than heard her come up behind me. “Let me take your coat.”

I set the satchel down, out of the way, and unbelted my coat. Slowly I slid it off my shoulders, past my bare back.

As she lifted it from my hands she took in a sharp breath. “Oh, Liv.” Her voice was rich with desire. “What are you doing to me?”

Pick up Rulebreaker at Carina Press or Barnes & Noble

Thanks for having me, Shelley!

Attending a Cocktail Party? Make Your Own Fascinator Hat!

I’m really excited to introduce my guest today. Maddy Barone writes romance and has a love of all things paranormal. In her own words, “I’ve been writing since junior high. Werewolves, time travel and handsome princes who can wield magic and lead armies are my thing. Any damsel in distress that I write can darned well rescue herself and if the hero’s ego can’t take that, then he’s not a hero. I want strong men who can respect their ladies and treat them like partners, not dainty little dolls. Is there anything sexier than a tough man who finds that one perfect woman and is willing to do anything for her?”

Maddy is also a keen member of SCA, a non-profit education organization that studies the renaissance and middle ages. She gets to dress up, mainly in garb from the Italian Renaissance but she has Japanese, Viking and Byzantine garb too. Just quietly – she has a rather cool steampunk outfit that I have my eye on. I’m very tempted to launch a surprise attack from New Zealand to nab it for myself!

Today Maddy is taking us through the process of making our own fascinator hat. Give her a warm welcome. Over to Maddy…

How to Make a Fascinator Hat

HRH the Duchess of Cambridge (nee Kate Middleton) has made fascinators the newest rage in headwear. Appropriate for every social event from weddings to the races to cocktail parties, a fascinator can add the perfect finishing touch to any outfit. But –gulp!—have you seen the prices?! Wouldn’t it be a lot cheaper to make it yourself? I made this one for $10.00 (USD) in 40 minutes.

Fascinator Hat

Fascinator

Do you think you need to be a milliner to be able to make a fascinator hat? Well, you don’t! All you need are a few things you already have around the house and a couple things from a craft store.

Fascinator Materials

Materials:

A round base. This can be a ready-made sinamay base available from some millinery supply stores and Etsy.com, or a small plastic lid covered with fabric.

Veiling. About 12-15 inches (30-37 cm) This can be purchased from bridal supply stores, eBay, Etsy. But you can do without it too. Use tulle or take a veil off some old hat from the thrift store.

Feathers. I bought mine at JoAnn Fabric & Crafts. I used:
a half-pinwheel of black feathers
a 3 inch piece of black and white marabou feather boa
2 red feather clumps

A focal piece. I used a brooch from my grandmother. You might use a silk flower, a fancy button, a cute bow, a rhinestone earring or clip.

Fastener. I’m using an old black plastic headband. You could use a comb, a clip, a barret or elastic.

Needle and thread or glue. I sewed my items on so I could remove them and re-make the hat with other items and colors, but you could easily use a glue gun if you prefer.

Directions:
1. If you will be using veiling, gather it to a length that will go half way around your base. Stitch or glue in place along the back edge. If it looks a little wonky that’s okay. The wearer can use hair pins to put the edges in place.

Fascinator 1

2. Begin adding your feathers, layering them in whichever fashion you like best. I sewed the pinwheel on first. See what big ugly stitches I used? I plan to take this off and remake it sometime to go with a different outfit. Big stitches are easier to remove, and who is ever going to see them?

Fasinator 2

Fascinator 2

3. When the feather layer is secured by stitching or glue, add your focal piece. I used my grandmother’s brooch. I can take it off and replace it with another one to change my color scheme.

4. Stitch or glue the fascinator to the headband or whichever fastening method you chose.

5. Try on the fascinator. Pretend your hair is perfect, your eyes are dramatically made up and your lips have that 1950s red pout. Use hair pins to arrange the veil in the most flattering way.

You’re done!! Congratulations! You have a fascinator hat to wear to your next cocktail party!

Fasinator Fascinator

Wolf's GloryWolf’s Glory

After the Crash, Book 2

When goth-girl Glory Peterson’s plane crashes she walks to find help. What she finds are people living in teepees like it’s the Old West. Wolf’s Shadow knows Glory is his mate. Glory’s happy to take a roll in the hay with him while she’s waiting for transportation back to civilization, but when she finds out she’s gone fifty years into the future and Shadow is a bossy werewolf who thinks he owns her, her attitude changes fast. Shadow is used to giving orders that are obeyed. Glory hasn’t obeyed an order since kindergarten. When two strong-willed lovers clash, who will win?

Available from Liquid Silver Books Now

Visit Maddy Barone to learn more about Maddy and her books.

CONTEST: Book one in Maddy Barone’s series, After the Crash, is actually one of the ebooks in the ebook bundle I’m giving away. The contest closes soon. Details of how to enter are on my contest page.