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Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009
A Reason to Diet

Last week I taped a travel show because hubby and I are considering where we might visit next and some of the destinations looked interesting.

Singleton in Australia is one of the places they visited. It’s in the Hunter Valley of New South Wales and is known for the wife carrying competition.

Wife carrying originated in Finland. The sport is thought to originate from two historic tales. The first is a 19th century legend has it that men stole wives from neighboring villages. In a second tale, an outlaw named Rosvo-Ronkainen made potential soldiers prove themselves in a race where they carried heavy sacks. The result is the wife carrying contest.

The rules are fairly simple: everyone involved must have fun. Competitors don’t have to carry their own wives. Rules state that a part­icipant may carry his own wife, his neighbor’s wife or someone he found “farther afield.” The onl­y stipulation is that the wife must be more than 17 years of age and weigh a minimum o­f 108 pounds (49 kg). If the wife weighs less than that, she must carry a weighted rucksack to make up the difference. The official length of the track is 831 feet (253.5 meters). The surface of the track includes sections of sand, grass and gravel. There are two obstacles to climb over, as well as a 1-meter- (3.2-feet-) deep water obstacle to wade through.

Last year, Anthony Partridge and Angela Moore, both from Singleton, came fifth in the World Championship with a time of 70 seconds. The world record stands at 55.5 seconds and is held by a couple from Tallinn in Estonia.

There are three methods of carrying a wife – the traditional piggy back, the fireman’s lift and the Estonia lift, which is shown in the video.

Hubby took one took at the screen, he looked at me and then said, “I hope you realize I’d never lift you.”
I said, “I’d never let you carry me around like that.” We looked at each other, grinned and settled back to watch TV. Neither of us have any desire to try the sport.

Would you like to try wife carrying?

Monday, February 2nd, 2009
Getting the Word Out!

One of the most difficult things for a writer is the promotion side of the business. There’s so many variables with promotion, and it’s hard to gauge what works and what doesn’t because royalties are often received months after the event. Sometimes it’s hard for a writer to juggle the time because there’s no doubt about it, promotion is a huge timesuck! It’s also difficult to know what will work for you. Each writer and book is different, and what works for one will not necessarily work for another.

Today I’d like to look at the pros and cons of promotion companies where the writer pays a company or individual to do their promotion for them. The theory is that this will free the writer to do what he or she does best. Write.

Advantages of a Promotion Company

1. They take over the chore of promotion for an author and therefore the stress.
2. A writer can save time and focus on their writing.
3. They (supposedly) have expertise and know exactly how to tailor a promotion for an author.
4. They can take care of both online and “real world” promotion, depending on the company.
5. A company can tailor make a package to meet your special needs.
6. A promo company knows all the right places to promote and all the posting rules on loops.
7. They can also help with printing needs i.e. banners, postcards, bookmarks etc.

Disadvantages/Cons of a Promotion Company

1. They can be expensive.
2. Some readers consider promotion posts are SPAM and delete them unread.
3. Sometimes overbooking clients can mean all clients are at a disadvantage and don’t get value for money.

Here are some links to a few author promotion companies:

Topaz Promotions
Millennium Promotion Services
Heartfelt Promos

In addition to promotion companies are author communities. These are groups of writers who pay to belong to a community. The owners of the community promote the authors together and individually. The theory is that a group of authors will attract readers and hopefully those reader visitors will discover new authors. Once again, it can be expensive to join a community and all communities are not equal. Some are over committed and not very good at communication. Some don’t attract readers as well as others. Some communities such as Writerspace attract large numbers of readers and have thousands of readers receiving their newsletters.

Some examples are:

Author Island
Writerspace
Access Romance
The Romance Studio
Eye On Romance
Fresh Fiction
I Read Romance

I am a current member of Access Romance, which I really like. They’re pleasant and efficient with a professionally run website. I’m also with Erotic Romance Writers, a sister site of I Read Romance. I found the owner friendly and efficient and the cost is very reasonable. I joined these two communities to help spread the word about my new releases, to gain traffic to my website and hopefully gain more name recognition. It’s hard to tell if I’ve achieved the name recognition, but my website traffic is up on this time last year, and I think more readers know about my releases. I’ve also had favorable dealings with Author Island and Fresh Fiction.

Readers: I’d like to know if you enjoy visiting author communities, and if you visit them on a regular basis. What is it that attracts you to the communities and which are your favorites?
Authors: Have you had dealings with either promtion companies or author communites? Good or bad? Do you have any questions?

Sunday, February 1st, 2009
Blog Participation Winner: January

Congratulations to Cheryl McInnes who wins a print copy of Romancing the Alien for visiting my blog during the month of January.

Visit my blog during February, comment on a post, and go into a draw to win a print book from my prize box. The more times you comment during the month, the better your chances of winning a prize. Good luck. See you around the blog. :grin:

Sunday, February 1st, 2009
Books, Reading Challenges and Moms

I saw the Mom song at Leah Braemel’s blog last week and had to post it here because it made me laugh.

Early in January I posted about the Book Challenges I intended to do for this year. They’ve stalled a little because I’m judging a contest and need to read those books first, but I have two mini reviews of books for new-to-me authors I’ve read so far this year.

Love Undercover – Hailey North

Jenifer Janey Booth is a single mother, living in a small town called Doolittle. Her two twins have left for college and she’s on her own for the first time—apart from her family and relations. Despite being alone, she’s determined she doesn’t need a man. Of course that doesn’t mean that sometimes she doesn’t want one.

Eric Hamilton is undercover, trying to catch the people responsible for counterfeit money. Jenifer is his main suspect since she was witnessed chatting to two of the crooks on two occasions. He befriends Jenifer, trying to solve his crime. He’s happy with his life, moving from place to place and from one undercover assignment to the next, but he hadn’t counted on the friendly people of Doolittle and the way they embrace him into their lives. And then there’s Jenifer. That’s a definite temptation for a start. Soon he’s thinking she’s not a criminal, despite evidence to the contrary.

I chose this book from my to-read pile because I’m going through a contemporary stage after overdosing a little on paranormal stories. It’s a sweet romance rather than the spicy ones I prefer, but the characters really grabbed me. They’re loveable and very human. I cared what happened to them as they took me on a wild ride trying to solve the case. I enjoyed the small town setting and the secondary characters. The secondary plots were interesting. As a writer, I tend to analyze a book. I know it’s a good book if I stop analyzing and start reading for pleasure rather than as a research exercise. I stopped analyzing Love Undercover fairly quickly and enjoyed both the plot and pacing. This is a solid B for me.

When She Was Bad by Cindy Kirk

Jennifer Carman is a CPA. She spends all her time working, aiming for a promotion. When someone else gets the promotion she wanted, she goes to a pub with her friend Marcee. Her friend tells her she should have a one-night stand. She says no until she sees Robert Marshall. They hit it off and she ends up going home with him, but she tells him her name is Jasmine and invents a more exciting background for herself. The sex is incredible but she doesn’t intend to see him again. She meets up with Robert again and a relationship evolves. They talk about financial matters and have this side of their life in common, although Robert doesn’t realize it. Jennifer has opportunities to tell Robert the truth about herself but she keeps putting it off. Then it’s too late and Jennifer realizes she might have made the biggest mistake of her life.

Once again, I stopped analyzing pretty quickly with this book. This was a hot read with great characterization, although I thought Jennifer carried on her pretence for a little long. I liked the way she grew during the course of the book and the way her relationship with her younger sister changed and improved. The plot held my interest, and I enjoyed the financial careers of the main characters since that’s my background. I liked it enough to pick up the connected book about Marcee, Jennifer’s friend. Another B read for me.

Here’s the link to my updated new-to-me author list.

If you’re doing any reading challenges, how are they going? What are you reading at the moment? Does the video remind you of your mother?

Friday, January 30th, 2009
Country Boy or City Sophistication?

So this track was playing on my iPod while Scotty and I wandered at our old-dog pace around the reserve this morning. It made me start thinking. Possibly a bad thing, but follow along…

I’m a country girl at heart, and my husband also grew up on a farm. The farming background gives us a lot in common. But I’ve also lived in towns and cities and met city boys. Their idea of dates are different for a start. A country man might take you to a rodeo, to an agricultural show or stock sales. Dinner out might be at the local pub and jeans are fine. In the city, dates are to nightclubs, nice restaurants or maybe a walk in a park. There are art galleries and museums and sexy dresses. Spiky heels that áre in no danger of sinking halfway to China when you walk beside your man. Try that in the country and see what happens!

In most of my writing, and especially in my Middlemarch series, the heroes are all country boys. Strong, capable farmers who don’t need to work out in a gym. An exception to this rule would be PLAYING TO WIN where my hero is a professional rugby player and businessman. He does a lot of promotion and charity work and is at home wearing a suit. While my Middlemarch men could do the suit thing, they’re more at home in the wide open spaces.

I like to read about both types of heroes, but I have a real soft spot for a cowboy, country male type. I like them because they’re independent, capable, usually emotionally strong and can turn their hand to anything. They’re not generally full of themselves. Maybe they’re not quite as good at romance, but we know the right woman can smooth the rough edges.

What do you think about real life – country man or a city man and why? And in fiction – which do you choose? Is your answer different and why?

This year Harlequin is celebrating sixty years of romance. They’re giving away free downloads of sixteen titles that represent most of their lines. If you haven’t checked out their free offer yet, run straight over and download the titles that grab your interest. I’ve already downloaded my share.
Here’s the link.

Thursday, January 29th, 2009
Brush Those Teeth.

Thursday Thirteen

I wasn’t looking forward to today because I had both dentist and doctor appointments. I loathe all that poking and prodding. Not nice! Anyhow, I survived the experience and decided to do my TT on dentist related things.

Thirteen Things About Dentists and Teeth

1. French dentists were the first Europeans to promote the use of toothbrushes in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries.

2. Hard to believe, but most Americans did not brush their teeth until Army soldiers brought their enforced habits of tooth brushing back home after World War II.

3. Toothpaste was used as long ago as 500 BC in both China and India; however, modern toothpastes were developed in the 1800s.

4. Cavities are holes in our teeth created by the wear, tear, and decay of tooth enamel.

5. False teeth date back as far as 700 BC. The Etruscans designed false teeth out of ivory and bone that were secured into the mouth by gold bridgework.

6. In the days when dentures weren’t invented yet, dentists would implant teeth in the mouth of a person. The teeth came from dead people!

7. In the 1800s, all kinds of teeth bleaching agents were used with varied results. In the 1900s, dentists paired hydrogen peroxide with a bleaching light to whiten teeth, but several treatments were needed to see results. Two dentists, Dr. Haywood and Dr. Heymann, came up with the idea of using carbamide peroxide as a whitening agent — and at-home bleaching trays were invented.

8. Roughly 8,000 years before Novocaine and some 7,300 years before they could even swig whiskey to dull the pain, prehistoric patients were having holes drilled into their teeth with drill bits carved from stone. The researchers think the dental work may have been done to ease pain, since four of the teeth showed signs of decay and the jaw of at least one individual showed signs of massive infection.

9. During the Battle of Waterloo people who scavenged from the dead on the battlefields carried a sturdy pair of pliers. These individuals weren’t only on the lookout for the more traditional items, such as money and jewellery, but for a rather more unlikely prize as well…human teeth.

10. Keeping those toothy pearls pretty and in place is a booming multibillion-dollar industry. There are about 3,000 patented toothbrushes on the market, with handles that look like running shoes and heads like precious power tools; and some that squirt, and others on timers, and some that ”deplaque” with sonic whiners.

11. Dentures reduce chewing power about 20 percent, depriving their owners of many foods that may be healthy like apples, corn on the cob and tree bark.

12. 1910—The first formal training program for dental nurses is established at the Ohio College of Dental Surgery by Cyrus M. Wright. The program is discontinued in 1914 mainly due to opposition by Ohio dentists.

13. A No Frills Dentist Appointment

The Smiths were shown into the dentist’s office, where Mr. Smith made it clear he was in a big hurry.

“No fancy stuff, Doctor,” he ordered, “No gas or needles or any of that stuff. Just pull the tooth and get it over with.”

“I wish more of my patients were as stoic as you,” said the dentist admiringly. “Now, which tooth is it?”

Mr. Smith turned to his wife Sue. “Show him, honey.”

I’ll admit my favorite part of a dentist appointment is the end when I’m safely out the door and done for another year. Do you enjoy visiting the dentist? Do you have many fillings? They say that all our toothpastes, floridated water etc has made our teeth better, so an unscientific survey–do your kids have many fillings compared to you at the same age?

Wednesday, January 28th, 2009
Penises in Paranormals

Okay. I’m totally borrowing/stealing this topic from Nicola O.

Nicola mentions in her post that penises in some paranormals are different from the norm. I’ve run across this phenomenon before. Most notable are Lora Leigh’s Breed books where barbs and knots appear during the sexual act, locking the hero and heroine together for long minutes. I remember reading this for the first time and thinking, well. That’s interesting. I’m glad it’s not me. Since this happens in nature I can accept it in a book, but it does make me squirm and not in a good way.

I remember reading ebooks written by Brenna Lyons (Kegin series) where a similar thing occured. In Brenna’s books, the heroines were a little astonished. Yep, that would be me as well.

I’ve also read a couple of sci-fi romances where the hero has two penises. For the life of me I can’t think of the title or author, but I remember that I had to read the paragraph twice. It could have been an EC book. The title will come to me, if I think about it for long enough.

Recently I’ve been reading some of Shannon McKenna’s romantic suspenses. I really enjoy Shannon’s books, but I’ve noticed that her heroes are all very well endowed and that they’re good with foreplay. They have to be because of their size. She also mentions the term “girl juice” several times, which just cracks me up.

In a more recent post Nicola also mentioned that her blog stats went crazy after her paranormal penises post, so I just had to experiment you understand and try my own penis post.

Now in my own writing I keep the size vague. I don’t go into great detail about length but I might mention appearance. My feline shapeshifters don’t have this mysterious barb, although the more I think about it, the more I want to introduce one. :grin: Watch this space.

Writers – I know most of my writer visitors write erotic romance so what do you do with the size and appearance thing?
Readers – what is your opinion of the barbs and knots and extra dangly bits? Do they make you go eek or do they just make you giggle? Do you skip those paragraphs?

Tuesday, January 27th, 2009
Ladies, A Plate

Growing up in the New Zealand countryside you wouldn’t think we’d socialize much, but as a child I remember going to fetes, socials and parties on a regular basis. The invitations always came along with the instructions for the ladies to bring a plate. I remember thinking this was a silly thing to ask for. I mean, wouldn’t they be better asking for food?

My mother explained to me that “ladies, a plate” was an expression and our hosts expected us to take a plate with food sitting on it, not an empty plate. She said I shouldn’t worry. There would definitely be food where we were going. That was a big relief because I like food, and unfortunately, I haven’t grown out of my liking for sweet treats!

I thought about this expression recently because there’s a new cookbook out in our local bookstores called Ladies, A Plate. It’s by Alexa Johnston and contains recipes for cakes and biscuits I remember eating in my childhood–-recipes such as Kiwi Crisps, Anzac biscuits, Afghans, Pikelets, Neenish Tarts, Butterfly Cakes, Custard Squares and Cinnamon Oysters.

Many of the recipes were developed in New Zealand and a few borrowed from Australia. In fact there’s a good-natured rivalry between the two countries when it comes to deciding which of the two countries invented some recipes.

These days baking seems to be a dying art. My mother taught my brother, sister and I how to cook and at the weekends, we’d all choose something to bake, filling the cake tins for the following week.

Do you have the expression ladies, a plate where you live? Do you have childhood memories of baking or special sweet treats? What were/are your favorites?

Monday, January 26th, 2009
Engagements: Long or short?

I have a quick question for you today, brought on by a family drama. I’m feeling all “Carrie Bradshaw” as I type this:

Do you favor long or short engagements?
How long is it before an engagement becomes simply living together?
And as for a party celebrating the event – do you think an engagement party should be held shortly after the announcement or is a large time lapse okay?

My own experience is this: Hubby and I had a short engagement of just under five months, and to be honest, if I remember it all in my next life, I’m going to elope. I found the entire experience very stressful because of all the family baggage I had to juggle. Yep, if I had the time over I wouldn’t bother with the hoopla and would head straight for the honeymoon.

What was your experience?

Saturday, January 24th, 2009
New Zealand: Tongariro National Park

I thought I’d post a few photos of my recent trip to Tongariro National Park. It’s a beautiful spot in both summer and winter.

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This is a shot of me and the Overlander trainer at National Park township. It’s a very small place!

Formed in 1887, Tongariro National Park was the second National Park in the world after Yellowstone in USA. It’s a volcanic area with three volcanoes, which are visible for miles. Mt Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe and Tongariro are all active with the most recent activity taking place on Ruapehu. A lahar raced down the mountainside last year when the ice and mud surrounding the crater lake at the top gave way, spewing out mud, water and rocks. Luckily, there are warning systems in place and they worked to plan with no injuries or unexpected surprises.

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This is a shot of Mt Ngauruhoe, taken from our hotel, The Chateau.

During the winter months skiers flock to the park and there was still a little snow on the mountain tops, despite the fact we’d arrived on one of the hottest days of the year to date. It was so hot the road was melting.

We stayed in Whakapapa Village at The Chateau, a hotel at the base of Mt Ruapehu that has been a holiday destination since 1929. The Chateau is a grand old building that looks like a classic mansion, and apart from the added wing, I imagine it looks much the same as it did when it was first constructed. We sat in the lounge and gazed out over the tussock lands to view Mt Tongariro and Mt Ngauruhoe. Mt Ngauruhoe is a perfect cone. During our visit, it appeared silent but I have seen it with plumes of smoke pouring out the top.

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This is a shot of The Chateau with Mt Ruapehu in the rear of the photo.

When I was twelve, we had a week long school trip and stayed at a motel up the road from The Chateau. During our visit, my friends and I sneaked into The Chateau and had a fine time playing in the elevators until unappreciative management kicked us out. Hey, we were country kids who didn’t see many elevators. Anyway, I made a point of using the elevators during our visit and took a perverse pleasure in it!

On our second day, we drove up Mt Ruapehu to The Top of the Bruce where the road ends. It was a gorgeous sunny day and perfect to ride the chairlifts. Once we ran out of chairlifts, it was time to use our feet. We walked until we reached the snowline. Thank goodness for sunglasses because it was very glary! After playing in the snow for a while, we retired to the café for a well-earned drink before walking the six kilometers back to the hotel. One thing I noticed was the bird song. I heard the native tui singing its guttural song and beautiful bellbird song. We took time to study the plants and admire the sweeping views across the tussock lands before heading back to the hotel for a long soak in the spa bath. I’ll admit I felt my muscles the next day, but the fresh air and fun we had was a good exchange for the pain of seldom used muscles.

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This is a shot of me on Mt Ruapehu. As you can see there was a bit of snow around.

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Here’s a shot of the mountain daisy we saw when we were walking down the mountain to the hotel.

The next day we caught the train back to Auckland, arriving home relaxed and refreshed.