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Wednesday, March 11th, 2009
Barbie and Karen Walker

Barbie turns fifty this year, and New Zealand fashion designer, Karen Walker was asked to design some outfits for Barbie’s special celebration. To date around seventy designers have designed special outfits for Barbie’s exotic shape. Karen Walker downsized some of her designs for next season especially for Barbie. Here’s a link to an interview with Karen Walker about the designs. I thought it was interesting that Karen’s very first design was a circular skirt for Barbie and this started Karen on her designer career. (some of you might enjoy the Kiwi accents in the video interview)

Hubby and I watched the news headlines about Barbie. I said to hubby that I’d never owned a Barbie. My doll was called Suzie and my sister cut her hair. Suzie looked bald in the front by the time my sister had finished. You can probably imagine the resulting war in our house that day! Hubby asked if I’d like him to buy me a Barbie. I told him a Barbie might come in handy but I’d need a Ken as well. Maybe two Kens since I’m writing some kinky stuff these days. Some erotic romance writers use their Barbies or children’s Barbie dolls to work out their love scenes. Hubby was aghast. Surely not? It was really funny, and we had a long, very interesting discussion about Barbie and Ken. It’s probably best if I end my blog post right there…

Did you own a Barbie doll? Do your children? And for all the erotic romance writers out there–have you used Barbies or Action figures for help in working out love scenes?

Tuesday, March 10th, 2009
Fated Mates.

Paranormal romances often use a fated mates plotline where the hero and heroine take one look at each other and know they will spend their lives together. Some readers and reviewers consider the fated mates plot overdone. They say it’s a way for the author to cheat on the world building aspect of their writing and that the fated mate plot is a shortcut. I’ve also seen readers/reviewers say characterization suffers in a fated mates story. Others say this type of plot is unbelievable.

Personally, I love reading and writing this type of plot. I read romance for the happy-ever-after aspect and like to think there is a special person or a soul mate waiting out there for every person. In my Middlemarch world, every feline shifter has a special mate. They don’t necessarily have to hook up with that person, but mostly they do end up together. Fated mates stories often contain other elements such as a suspense subplot.

What do you think? Do you like the fated mates plotline? What do you like or dislike about it? Are stories that use the fated mate scenario too predictable? Are there any particular stories featuring fated mates that you’ve enjoyed?

Sunday, March 8th, 2009
Themed Reading: Rare Breed by Connie Hall

This is the first book I’ve read in my themed reading challenge. It’s taken me a while to get started because I judged two published author contests. I’m all done now and ready to face my challenges.

Rare Breed is about Wynne Sperling who is a park ranger in Zambia, Africa. There’s a poaching operation in her park and Wynne is determined to catch the poachers and toss them in jail. She’s not sure of the poaching leader’s identity, but suspects it’s Englishman Noah Hellstrom who owns a safari tour operation. Then there’s Texan Jack MacKay who is loaded with charm but raises Wynne’s suspicions. There are also rumors of a feline, said to be an ancient breed, and if the stories are true, Noah Hellstrom is determined to profit from them.

I chose this book from my to-read pile because it’s been there a long time and it fit my theme of heroes and heroines who wear uniforms. It was part of the now defunct Harlequin Bombshell line, which will give you an idea of how long it’s been sitting in my pile.

What I liked:

1. The unusual setting of Zambia and a game park. (I’ve visited Zambia and it was lovely revisiting the country)
2. The heroine’s occupation –a woman park ranger in Africa.
3. Wynne’s weapon of choice is a slingshot, and she’s very proficient with it.
4. The distinct African flavor of the story. I could see the setting so clearly, feel the heat and the sounds of the animals.
5. Snow, the leopard raised by Wynne, and the fact Wynne allowed Snow to return to the wild.

What I didn’t like:

1. This wasn’t really a romance.
2. Although we were left hanging about the identity of the poachers, it was pretty easy to guess the identity of the poacher and the good guy undercover.

Would I read another book by Connie Hall? Yes, definitely. I had no problem with the writing style.

Friday, March 6th, 2009
Over and Over

I’ve heard readers comment about authors who write a variation of the same book over and over again. Each new release is a rewrite of the same story. I know I’ve stopped reading a couple of authors because I felt their stories were pretty much identical. Maybe the characters were different, but the conflicts and plot were similar. It didn’t feel as if I was reading a different book.

I’ve written over thirty books now. I’ll admit I think about originality when I’m writing a new book. I like to think each story is distinctly different, but I’m also aware that an author’s upbringing colors their perceptions. Their books may contain the same theme. Many of my stories deal with finding a home and security. I hope my books are different enough that readers don’t think I’m a one-book wonder. It’s hard to judge your own work sometimes.

What do you think? Does an author tend to write the same story over and over?

Thursday, March 5th, 2009
Food Glorious Food!

Thursday Thirteen

I saw a Miss Piggy quote in a newspaper insert that came through our mailbox this week. Aha! I thought. That’s a perfect topic for a Thursday Thirteen. So, THIRTEEN QUOTES ABOUT FOOD

1. “Never eat more than you can lift.” ~ Miss Piggy

2. “Food is our common ground, a universal experience.” ~ James Beard

3. “I am not a glutton – I am an explorer of food.” ~ Erma Bombeck

4. “An old-fashioned vegetable soup, without any enhancement, is a more powerful anti carcinogen than any known medicine.” ~ James Duke, MD

5. “As with most fine things, chocolate has its season. There is a simple memory aid that you can use to determine whether it is the correct time to order chocolate dishes: any month whose name contains the letter A, E, or U is the proper time for chocolate.” ~ Sandra Boynton

6. “My mother’s menu consisted of two choices: Take it or leave it.” ~ Buddy Hackett

7. “My wife dresses to kill. She cooks the same way.” ~ Henny Youngman

8. “The primary requisite for writing well about food is a good appetite.” ~ A.J. Liebling

9. “Only Irish coffee provides in a single glass all four essential food groups: alcohol, caffeine, sugar, and fat.” ~ Alex Levine

10. “If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, talks like a duck, it probably needs a little more time in the microwave.” ~ Lori Dowdy

11. “It’s important to watch what you eat. Otherwise, how are you going to get it into your mouth ?” ~ Matt Diamond

12. “One of life’s mysteries is how a 1kg box of candy can make a woman gain 2kg.”

13. “The older you get, the tougher it is to lose weight, because by then your body and your fat are really good friends.”

And an extra one because it made me laugh:

“Inside some of us is a thin person struggling to get out, but she can usually be sedated with a few pieces of chocolate cake.”

I’ll admit I love food. I eat a varied diet with dishes influenced from different parts of the world. Italian food is one of my favorites but I also enjoy Pacific Rim food, which is often seafood with Pacific or Asian influences. Pacific Rim food is like a melting pot of New Zealand ethnic groups combined with our fresh produce. Like most Westerners, I probably eat too much, but some of my happiest memories involve food and meals with friends. I’m a capable cook and enjoy it when I’m in the mood.

What is your favorite type of food? Do you like eating and cooking?

Wednesday, March 4th, 2009
The Wait Between Books

Last week Kaye Munro did a post about writing and author productivity. I’ve been thinking about this, and I want everyone to put on their reader hats while they read this post about author releases.

It used to be that authors would write one book a year and sometimes one book every two years. These days authors tend to have a higher rate of productivity. Some authors write three or four books a year, depending on the line they write for and also if they write for traditional or e-publishers.

The good thing for readers is this means there are a large number of books available to choose from. We’re spoiled for choice. I don’t know about you, but as a reader, I love the trilogies or connected books by the same author that come out in three successive months. I think that’s reader heaven. I like my favorite authors to have releases at least every six months. That’s a good length of time for me. If the wait is much longer, I forget to look for the next release because I have a lot of favorites. If I can’t find a book written by one of my favorite authors, I tend to look farther afield, and I explore the books of new-to-me writers. Sometimes I find new favorites, so there’s a danger if an author doesn’t have frequent releases, they’ll lose me to another writer or writers.

How long are you willing to wait between books? Can an author have too many releases in one year? Do you think quality is sacrificed in favor of quantity these days?

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2009
NZ: Bluff Oysters

The Bluff oyster season has recently opened in New Zealand, and oyster fans are clamoring for a taste of the new season’s oysters.

Bluff is a small coastal town at the bottom of the South Island. It is this town that the oysters take their name from, but they are also commonly known as flat oysters and are available in other parts of New Zealand. The actual Bluff oysters are taken from Foveaux Strait. Boats operate under a quota system to protect the oysters, and in past years pickings have been lean because of a bonamia parasite attack. Scientists report that this is a bumper year after a warm summer, and the oysters are fat and healthy.

Oysters are big business and increasingly expensive due to shortages in past years and transport costs. This year helicopters whisked them away to markets as soon as the boats reached the shore, which adds to the cost.

Most people eat them raw. They loosen the meat, tip the shell and let the oyster slide down their throat. You’re not meant to chew, merely swallow.

Pacific Oysters

This is a photo of farmed Pacific oysters, taken by moi. Mr. Munro and his brothers go on a day outing every Christmas so they have oysters for Christmas day. I’m not an oyster fan at all so I watch the drama of the Bluff season with bemusement. A raw oyster sends shudders of horror through me, although I’m quite happy to eat cooked oysters. I think they look like snot, and the taste is not much better. Probably more than you wanted to know! Mr. Munro usually humors me and cooks a few at Christmas, putting them under the grill with a tasty topping or making fritters. I can handle them cooked and think they’re quite tasty eaten that way!

Have you eaten oysters and do you like them?

Saturday, February 28th, 2009
Author Photos: Yes or No?

I always enjoy the Novelist Inc. blog, and the most recent post is one by Pati Nagle about Five Should Haves on a Website. It’s a great post and well worth reading.

One of the things Pati mentions is an author photo on the home page of a website. She says readers feel more connected if they can see a photo of you, and this might lead to them remembering your name when they’re browsing for books in a store.

I don’t have a photo on my home page because I wanted to focus on my books. I might post photos on my blog and I have my picture in the photo section, but for me, a website should be about the books. Yes, I agree, a website needs a personality, but I don’t believe I need my face to be part of that personality.

In the past, I’ve heard of agents and publishers rejecting older authors because their faces/age/sex isn’t marketable. I don’t know if this is an urban legend or not, but it’s a sad fact of life that models and most people who feature in ads to sell products are young and glamorous. Does this extend to authors? I don’t know.

I wondered what everyone else thought. Obviously there’s no right or wrong answer, merely opinions. What do you think? Author photos – yes or no? Does knowing what an author looks like affect your buying decision?

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009
Baby Bear…

Photobucket

Sunday, February 22nd, 2009
Hiding in the Writing Cave

I’m busy with edits at the moment and have worked all weekend on writing. It’s keeping me out of trouble, that’s for sure! I have edits on two manuscripts. One down, and I’m thirty pages into the second.

Tomorrow I have a special guest. JK Coi is visiting and talking about her latest release. I hope you’ll pop by to visit.

Despite being busy I still have a book on the go. I’ve just finished Only Pleasure by Lora Leigh. This one wasn’t one of my favorites of hers, and I actually found myself skimming. Next off the pile is Body Language by Suzanne Brockmann.

If you’re in the Northern hemisphere, enjoy the rest of your weekend. Southern hemisphere – welcome to Monday!

What are you reading at the moment?