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Monday, December 22nd, 2008
Heavy Breathing

The idea for this post came to me in the wee hours of this morning. I woke up all of a sudden to the musical sound of my husband’s snoring. Now, we’ve been married for a while, and I have him well trained. I handle this snoring business in two ways.

1. I’ll put my hand on hubby’s shoulder and say in a firm voice, “Turn on your side.” Like a well-trained seal, he turns over on his side without even waking and the snoring stops. I go back to sleep and all is well in the world.

2. Hubby continues to snore and I’m tired. I get grumpy and that’s when I wade in with a well-placed elbow. It’s a take-no-prisoners jab, designed to shock a snoring husband awake. If I’ve got to suffer and be awake then so does he!

This morning I chose method number one and he did his seal flop. The snoring stopped and I went back to sleep. I’m lucky since this doesn’t happen very often.

The noise of snoring is caused by parts of the nose and throat – in particular, the soft palate – vibrating as a person breathes in and out. At night, the muscles that help keep your airways open relax and become floppy. This causes the airways to narrow and vibrate more, making snoring more likely. Alcohol, colds and allergies, being overweight, smoking and sleeping on your back can all contribute to snoring. Evidently more than 3.5 million people snore in Britain. That’s a lot of noise. I imagine the figures are similar in the US and New Zealand. I can only wonder what a spying alien might think about all the racket!

In the interests of transparency, I’d better add that I snore whenever I have a cold. As I tell hubby, I have to breathe!

Ways to treat snoring include not drinking alcohol before bed, maintaining a good weight for you, sleeping on your side, raising the head of the bed and using a humidifier. These days you can also purchase special nasal strips, which are said to help.

Do you have people who snore in your household? How do you cope?

Note: Just a reminder about the Bitten by Books – Naughty Nights of Christmas contest. There are lots of great books up for grabs. I’m on Night 12. Don’t delay because the contest will end very soon!

Sunday, December 21st, 2008
Holiday Stories

Each year I think about reading special seasonal stories for Valentine’s Day, Halloween and Christmas. I say to myself, “That’s a good idea. It would get you in the mood.” Somehow, that never happens. I never organize myself enough to follow through and the thought slips from my mind.

This year, though, was different! I’ve read two Christmas stories, and I thought I’d tell you about them.

The first was Sweet Charity by Lauren Dane. I was lucky enough to receive a sneak preview of this wonderful Christmas story before it comes out next week. Lauren writes such great characters. They’re always strong, and they know what they want. Charity, the heroine is a prime example of this. It’s coming up to Christmas and she decides to go after what she wants. Actually that should be “who” because she wants Gabriel. I’m not going to tell you more, except that it’s a great little story and I really enjoyed it. Here’s the link to the book page at Samhain. It’s available for purchase on 23 December.

The other story I read and enjoyed was A Virgin River Christmas by Robyn Carr. I’ve mentioned Robyn Carr a lot recently. I’ve fallen in love with her Virgin River series. I like the sense of community in the books, the repeat glimpses into characters’ lives from previous books and the small town setting. This one is set during the run up to Christmas and features Marcie and ex-marine Ian who has stepped away from life and lives as a hermit, high up on the mountain. Ian was Marcié’s husband’s senior officer (oops – that’s a mouthful!) and he tried to save Bobby. He carried him to medical transport but Bobby died. Marcie wants to track Ian down and give him some of her husband’s old letters. She wants to talk with him and thank him. Marcie changes Ian and helps him get the past into perspective.

This is a great book. It stands alone but your enjoyment will be much richer if you read the series from book one. And as an aside, if you start at book one now, you’ll be ready for the next three books in the series that come out back-to-back, starting in Feb 2009.

Do you like seasonal stories? Holiday stories? Do you read them? Do you have any favorites you’d like to recommend or do a mini review for in the comments section?

Sunday, December 14th, 2008
The To-Read Pile

It’s no secret I love to read and that my love of reading directed me on the path to becoming a writer. If you’re a reader and you’re anything like me, you probably have a huge to-read pile sitting by your bed or lined up nicely in a bookcase somewhere in your house. I like ebooks as well and have a stack of unread ones waiting on my hard drive.

When I’m ready to read another book, I sometimes take the one on the top of the pile and sometimes that particular book doesn’t grab me, so I’ll shuffle the pile around until I find one that suits my mood. When it comes to ebooks, I’m more likely to choose according to length. I’m reading short ebooks at the moment because I’m time-poor but still want to feel as if I’m actually reading.

I’m constantly adding to my to-read pile, despite the fact that sometimes it looks like Mt. Cook. (NZ’s highest mountain) I can’t seem to stop myself. I tend to read the hot books first, although I’m saving one Lora Leigh book for after Christmas. At the moment I’m going through a contemporary phaze, and my pile is now sadly depleted in this respect. I’m going to have to either replace them or start on another genre any day now.

Okay, I’ve confessed. Now it’s your turn.

What does your reading pile look like? Is it tidy or messy? Do you know what’s in your pile or are you in danger of duplication? How do you choose which book to read next? What about your ebook stack?

Deliciously Decadent December Winners so far

Winner of Crimson Prey is Fedora.
Winner of Quintuplets is Cathy M.
Winner of Rain God is Lexee.

Congratulations!

Friday, December 12th, 2008
Scrapbooking with Amy

I’m really excited about my guest blogger today. I met Amy W online through our mutual love of books, reading and paranormal romances. She’s also a digital scrapbook designer and does the most amazing projects. Today she’s taking us through the basics of digital scrapbooking and also has a special surprise gift for us. I’ll leave you in Amy’s hands, and if you have any questions just ask them in the comments section.

Hello everyone my name is Amy W. You may have seen me here from time to time commenting on Shelley’s entertaining blog and begging her for more Middlemarch books (I love that series!). First off I want to thank Shelley for inviting me to guest blog, it’s my first time and a great honor. That being said I’m not a writer, just an avid reader, I am digital scrapbook designer. “What’s a digital scrapbook?” I know that question just popped into your head right now. If you are at all familiar with traditional paper scrapbooks, then know that digital is just a way of creating those same lovely scrapbook pages on a computer. And if you’re not familiar with them, then we make photos look really pretty.

Let’s talk about scrapbooking for a minute. People scrapbook to preserve memories in a special way. Rather than just putting photos into an album, a scrapbook page draws the viewer into the memory. These pages are rich with color, detail and wonderful journaling. Each page is a work of art lovingly created by a scrapbook artist. Every piece put on a page is carefully chosen to reflect the theme, colors and feeling of the photos and moment. They can be breathtaking to see when finished. I have seen pages that made me feel the fun and adventure of a 6 year olds birthday party, the sorrow of a loved one missing, the love shared by a couple at their wedding or their 50th anniversary and a parent’s pride on graduation day for their child. A scrapbook is filled with moments of time captured forever not just in a photo but in a one (or two) page story of visual richness.

Now let’s talk more specifically about digital scrapbooking. I chose to create digital scrapbooks versus paper scrapbooks for a few reasons that you may understand:

1. I don’t like cleaning up the mess after creating a page. Bits of paper and ribbon are everywhere. Plus have a small child who likes to get into things. It’s so much easier to just save a file, then to clean up and put away traditional materials.

2. I can reuse supplies and kits as many times as I want and I never run out of letters in an alphabet, just copy and paste the files over and over again.

3. I can resize, crop, change to black and white, sepia tone or reuse my digital photos however I choose and as often as I want.

4. Digital scrapbooks are more cost effective (cheaper) that traditional. There are many scrappers out there who create pages to share entirely for free.

5. The ease of which I can share my special memory with friends and family, either via the internet or with printed products.

Overall I believe digital scrapbooking is just easier than traditional. But I still on occasion like to play with stickers, glitter and ribbons, so I do some hybrid scrapping. Hybrid scrapbooking is where you combine traditional paper scrapbooking with digital. Print out a digital card or a gift box. Grab those stickers, bows, ribbons and glitter off the shelf and create a wonderful creation that uses both scrapping styles. There are a variety of programs that can be used to create digital scrapbooks and they run from free to expensive. There are also a tremendous number of designers giving away digital scrapbook supplies, or freebies, every day. You can also go into an online scrap shop and buy the perfect kit for your special occasion. (Please stop by mine and take a peek. digibydesign.com)

Now, since you’ve all read this far though my explanation of digital scrapbooking I’ve got a special treat for you. Here is a file with 3 Christmas Bragbook Goodies inside. Download it and you’ll find inside Christmas cards for you to print and create. We call them bragbooks because the 4×6 inch size is standard for photo prints and easy to show, share or simply brag about. The first bragbook is a simple card that you print and then fold to give to a loved one. If you want to jazz it up think about adding glitter, stickers or bows to it. The second project is called a quick page, for this one you’ll need a photo to put in the empty spot and you’re done…a quick scrap page. Both the card and quick page can easily be used with either MS Word or Outlook to print or share via email. Lastly is a digital layered template, or a jumpstart, for those of you who already know how to digitally scrapbook.

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You can download your Christmas Bragbook Goodies HERE.

Enjoy the goodies and have a Happy Holiday Season!
Amy W.

P.S. Don’t forget to take lots of pictures over the holidays so you can scrapbook them later!

Sunday, December 7th, 2008
Black Eyes and Fat Lips

Mr. Munro went fishing this weekend with a friend. He dropped a stainless steel bucket overboard, and when he jumped into the water to retrieve it, the boat moved. He ended up with a fat lip and several scrapes and bruises. He rang me most perturbed because it was interfering with his beer drinking. Men!

I still have a black eye and numerous bruises from falling off my bike last week. I tell you, people are going to start talking about us and the things that go on in the privacy of the Munro home. Has anyone else had a black eye? I want to know how long I’m going to need to walk around looking like this. At least I’m colorful…

We went for a quick walk tonight with the dog. It was later than normal and everyone had turned on their Christmas lights. It was very pretty. My favorites are the colored lights that look like icicles. We never put up lights but it’s fun going for a walk this time of the year to indulge the inner child.

It’s my birthday tomorrow. It’s actually on 8th December but because we’re 13 hours ahead in NZ my birthday is also on the 7th if you live in the US. Confused? LOL I’m off to the zoo to see the tigers and do some research for my next Middlemarch Mates book. I’m looking forward to seeing the new tiger cubs. Auckland has a great zoo and I always enjoy my visits. I’m meeting hubby later in the day and we’re going out for dinner. No cooking or housework for a day. It sounds like a good idea to me.

Do you put up Christmas lights? And if so, what sort? Has anyone else been accident prone during the last week?

Friday, December 5th, 2008
A Visit to Banff National Park

My special guest today is Barbara Martin who lives in Canada. I met Barbara online and love visiting her blog because it’s always interesting. On each visit I learn something about wildlife, history or beauty spots in Canada. She writes dark fantasy, short stories and flash fiction. Today Barbara gives us an opportunity to visit a beautiful spot in Canada, Banff National Park. Once again, I think you’ll need your warm clothes for this visit, although the pool looks inviting.

Thank you, Shelley, for this opportunity to provide a post during your birthday month.

This post is on my favourite vacation location in Canada, Banff National Park in the Rocky Mountains of Alberta. Every summer during my young formative years my family would come here to enjoy the sights and excursions, as my mother had done during her childhood.
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Thursday, December 4th, 2008
Flirting: Fun Human Interaction

Thursday Thirteen

Thirteen Things about FLIRTING

1. Flirting – according to Wikipedia flirting is a form of human interaction between two people, expressing a romantic and/or sexual interest. It can consist of conversation, body language, or brief physical contact. It may be one-sided or reciprocated.

2. Flirting is used as a means of expressing interest or gauging the other person’s interest in courtship or even casual sex.
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Wednesday, December 3rd, 2008
Research with Monica Burns

My special guest today is author, Monica Burns. If you enjoy historicals and haven’t had a chance to read either Mirage or Dangerous, I suggest you grab a copy from Samhain Publishing today. I enjoyed both books very much and can’t wait for Monica’s next release. BTW, both Mirage and Dangerous are EPPIE finalists, which doesn’t surprise me in the slightest. Over to Monica now who is talking about research and a little about Egypt.

I love everything Egypt. It’s drawn me to it since I was a kid. One of these days. I hope to gather up the courage to visit this fascinating country. You see, I have a great fear of snakes, which is the main reason why I’ve not made a serious effort to tour this wonderfully sensual and exotic land. But just because I can’t go there in person, doesn’t mean I have to stay at home in my head. I have written two books now with Egyptian themes. Dangerous and Mirage. In both of these books are Egyptian cults, mysticism, and ancient artifacts are used in the plot. In Dangerous, my book is set in Victorian England at a time when spiritualism and all things Egyptian were at their height.
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Tuesday, December 2nd, 2008
The Boredom Factor

Author Kaye Manro had a good post at her blog last week about opening lines in novels. As authors we’re told first lines are important, and we should work at making them perfect.

While I go along with this advice and try to make my first line intriguing, it made me wonder. I used to finish reading every book I started. I’ll admit there might have been times when I skimmed toward the end of the book, but I finished reading it.

These days my personal reading time is valuable. Heck, if I’m truthful, I don’t have personal reading time because I’m always analyzing how other writers do things. When I pick up a new book to read, I tend to give the author one to three chapters to grab my attention. If I’m not interested by then, the book goes and I move onto the next. I’m not that faithful reader any more. LOL – I guess I tend toward the slutty kind. If I’m not hooked I move on to the next and the next until I find one that satisfies my needs.

I’d also like to say that we’re all different. There’s one author everyone seems to like. I find her here. I find her there. I find her everywhere. On blogs, that is. Yet her books just don’t grab me. What works for one reader doesn’t necessarily work for another.

What about you? How long do you give an author to make an impression on you, the reader? Do you give them the first line? The first paragraph? The first chapter? How forgiving are you as a reader if the first line doesn’t hook you in?

Saturday, November 29th, 2008
Broken.

Due to a fault at an Auckland substation thousands of Aucklanders were without Internet access last night and today. I was one of the thousands and have suffered through the 24 hour downtime with great impatience. I dislike my ISP. I’d change if it wasn’t such a huge hassle.

Hubby and I went to do our shopping today. Hubby made me wear my sunglasses and suggested that I wear jeans. I wore shorts and took off my glasses in the glasses place so they could fix a bit that had fallen off. No one said a word, although they kept taking furtive looks at my very colorful eye. If anything my black eye looks worse than it did when I first fell off my bike and cut it – sort of purple, red and now a bit of yellow creeping in. As I said – colorful.

I’m blogging at the Samhain blog on Saturday morning. My post is about Women Taking a Stand. All will become obvious when you read my post. Here’s the link.