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Wednesday, April 16th, 2008
Loving the Love Scene

My special guest today is Ashlyn Chase. She writes sparkling comedies and has had an unusual upbringing…she was kidnapped by gypsies as an infant and left on the doorstep of the Massachusetts home in which she grew up. Oh, wait! That’s what her older siblings told her. It seems that story telling runs in the family.

Her most recent release is Death by Delilah, the story of two Navy lovers. Can two Navy lovers, equal in resolve but not in rank, secretly live together off base, without discovery causing one of them to be transferred to the Middle East? Read Death by Delilah to find out!

Today Ashlyn is discussing a very important component of writing a romance – the love scene. Without further ado, here’s Ashlyn…

Erotic romance authors are often asked how they write hot love scenes. It isn’t easy! In fact, it’s one of the hardest things to write well. I happen to write erotic comedy but when it comes to sizzling sex, I’m deadly serious. I don’t write porn. I’ve been in those sleazy bookshops with the blacked out windows and bought a couple of their books to “see what I was missing.” Not much! Just some terribly written plotless stories with absolutely no romance by authors in need of an anatomy class.
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Thursday, March 27th, 2008
I Put My Blue Jeans On….

Thursday Thirteen

Most people own a pair of jeans. Finding the right fit can be an exercise in frustration and after many years of trying on jeans, can I say dark rinse, mid-rise, boot-cut. That’s me, baby. I’ll admit that having found my style I’m now feeling suitably smug. I did, however, take a moment to ponder about jeans and their history. IMO there’s inspiration to be found while checking out men in jeans, although if you repeat this to my hubby, I’m denying all!

So, in honor of jeans and the clever man who invented them:

THIRTEEN THINGS ABOUT JEANS

1. The word jeans comes from a type of material made in Europe. The material, called jean, was named after sailors from Genoa in Italy, because they wore clothes made from it. The word ‘denim’ probably came from the name of a French material, serge de Nimes: serge (a kind of material) from Nimes (a town in France).

2. During the eighteenth century workers wore jean cloth because the material was very strong and it did not wear out easily.

3. In 1853, the California gold rush was in full swing, and everyday items were in short supply. Levi Strauss, a 24-year-old German immigrant, left New York for San Francisco with a small supply of dry goods with the intention of opening a branch of his brother’s New York dry goods business. Shortly after his arrival, a prospector wanted to know what Mr. Strauss was selling. When Strauss told him he had rough canvas to use for tents and wagon covers, the prospector said, “You should have brought pants!,” saying he couldn’t find a pair of pants strong enough to last.

4. Exhausting his original supply of canvas, as the demand grew for his long-wearing overalls, Levi switched to a sturdy fabric called serge, which was made in Nimes, France. Originally called serge de Nimes, this name was soon shortened to “denim”. And, with the development of an indigo dye, the brown color was soon replaced with the now familiar deep blue, the trademark color of most jeans made today.

5. One of Levi’s many customers was a tailor named Jacob Davis. Originally from Latvia, Jacob lived in Reno, Nevada, and regularly purchased bolts of cloth from the wholesale house of Levi Strauss & Co. Among Jacob’s customers was a difficult man who kept ripping the pockets of the pants that Jacob made for him. Jacob tried to think of a way to strengthen the man’s trousers, and one day hit upon the idea of putting metal rivets at the points of strain, such as on the pocket corners and at the base of the button fly.

6. These riveted pants were an instant hit with Jacob’s customers and he worried that someone might steal this great idea. He decided he should apply for a patent on the process, but didn’t have the $68 that was required to file the papers. He needed a business partner and he immediately thought of Levi Strauss. In 1872 Jacob wrote a letter to Levi to suggest that the two men hold the patent together. Levi, who was an astute businessman, saw the potential for this new product and agreed to Jacob’s proposal. On May 20, 1873, the two men received patent no.139,121 from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. That day is now considered to be the official “birthday” of blue jeans.

7. Jeans can be worn very loose in a manner that completely conceals the shape of the wearer’s lower body, or they can be snugly fitting and accentuate the body, specifically the buttocks. Historic photographs indicate that in the decades before they became a staple of fashion, jeans generally fit quite loosely, much like a pair of bib overalls without the bib. Indeed, until 1960, Levi Strauss denominated its flagship product “waist overalls” rather than “jeans”.

8. The orange thread traditionally used to sew Levi Strauss blue jeans was intentionally selected to match the copper rivets that doubled the durability of the jeans.

9. How many pair of jeans do you own? According to the Cotton Incorporated Lifestyle Monitor™, each American woman and man own eight pairs of jeans on average.

10. What kind of jeans are you? Take the test.

11. One of the best as well as easiest things you can do to protect your jeans in the laundry is to turn them inside out before washing.

When possible, use cold water to wash your jeans along with a small amount of vinegar added to the rinse cycle instead of fabric softener. The cold cycle is much easier on your blue jeans and helps to prevent fading. The vinegar is an added touch to preserve the color.

Another way to preserve the color of your jeans is to buy a detergent for dark colors such as Woolite Dark Laundry Fabric Wash. This detergent is made especially to help preserve dark colors and works very well for blue jeans.

12. Choose a style that’s right for your body type. A slim figure is well-suited to low-rise skinny, straight or boot-cut jeans. The latter two cuts are more flattering on muscular, athletic shapes. If you are pear-shaped, try low-rise boot-cut or flared jeans for balance. A higher-rise is recommended for curvier girls, as it better conceals love-handles. However, every figure is different and it really is best to try on many different cuts. To make your butt look perkier, choose a jean with low-set back pockets that are closer to the center.

13. I have often said that I wish I had invented blue jeans: the most spectacular, the most practical, the most relaxed and nonchalant. They have expression, modesty, sex appeal, simplicity – all I hope for in my clothes. ~Yves Saint Laurent

Do you like to wear jeans?

Tuesday, March 25th, 2008
You Had Me At Halo…

You Had Me At Halo My guest today is Amanda Ashby. Amanda lives in New Zealand, or rather she’s just returned to New Zealand from the UK, and we’re happy to claim her back. You Had Me At Halo is Amanda’s first book. It’s a funny paranormal with a unique slant and has garnered great reviews, including a nomination for the RT Reviewer’s Choice award in the contemporary paranormal romance category. It had me grinning. Amanda is currently immersed in the world of zombies as she works on a young adult novel. She has an interesting life. :grin:

CONTEST: see the details below to enter. We’ll draw the winner’s name on Thursday so don’t forget to check back in the comments section to see if you’re the winner.

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Saturday, March 22nd, 2008
The First Date

Writing a book is like dating. There’s the first excitement of the new idea where you wonder what to wear, how to approach the shiny new relationship. It goes well and there’s a second date. The liaison seems full of promise but suddenly the guy doesn’t ring…

What on earth has gone wrong? you wonder, trying to frantically rethink the relationship, obsessing about what you should have, could have done differently.

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Thursday, March 20th, 2008
It’s All in A Smile

Thursday Thirteen

Thirteen Things about SMILES

Smile

1. Definition of a smile – to have or take on a facial expression showing usually pleasure, amusement, affection, friendliness, etc., or, sometimes, irony, derision, etc. and characterized by an upward curving of the corners of the mouth and a sparkling of the eyes

2. It takes more muscles to frown than it does to smile. Not true. According to Snopes.com this is an urban legend.

3. According to Wikipedia a smile is a facial expression formed by flexing the muscles most notably near both ends of the mouth. The smile can be also around the eyes. Among humans, it is customarily an expression of pleasure, happiness, or amusement, but can also be an involuntary expression of anxiety, in which case it can be known as a grimace. There is much evidence that smiling is a normal reaction to certain stimuli and occurs regardless of culture. Happiness is most often the cause of a smile.

4. Among animals, the exposure of teeth, which may bear a resemblance to a smile, is often used as a threat or warning display – known as a snarl – or a sign of submission. In chimpanzees, it can be a sign of fear.

5. The BBC have a quiz you can do where you rate smiles. How good are you at telling if a smile is genuine? Me – I learned I’m not very good at judging smiles. Here’s the link.

6. A genuine smile is addictive, especially if accompanied by laughter.

7. To keep a nice smile it’s a good idea to use a toothbrush. It is important to change your tooth brush every 2-3 months or sooner as it becomes ineffective when worn out. Adults should choose a small or medium size toothbrush with soft or medium multi-tilted, round ended nylon bristles. The head should be small enough to get into all parts of the mouth. Children need to use smaller brushes but with the same type of bristles.

8. A smile confuses an approaching frown. ~Author Unknown

9. People seldom notice old clothes if you wear a big smile. ~Lee Mildon

10. Start every day with a smile and get it over with. ~W.C. Fields

11. Wrinkles should merely indicate where smiles have been. ~Mark Twain, Following the Equator

12. Of all the things you wear, your expression is the most important. ~Janet Lane

13. Wear a smile – one size fits all. ~Author Unknown

Have you smiled today?

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Thursday, March 13th, 2008
The World’s Greatest Navigator

Thirteen Things about CAPTAIN JAMES COOK

There’s a really good documentary playing on our TV at the moment about the life of James Cook. It’s fascinating and these are some of the things I’ve learned during the last two weeks of viewing.

1. 1728: Born at Marton (near modern Middlesbrough), Yorkshire, Britain. He was the son of a farmer.

2. 1736: Family moves a few miles to Great Ayton, Yorkshire. He attends the village school and shows great promise.

3. 1744: He moves several miles to the coastal village of Staithes and is apprenticed to a shop keeper.

4. 1746: He moves south to Whitby, where he works for Captain John Walker on his ships. They’re not allowed to drink, gamble or associate with loose women!

5. 1755: Joins the Royal Navy as an ordinary seaman.

6. 1759: Takes part in surveying the St. Lawrence River in Canada. He’s fascinated by a new method of surveying and is excited by the possibilities.

7. 1760-67: Surveys the islands of Newfoundland, St. Pierre and Miquelon off the east coast of Canada. His map was so accurate it was still being used over 200 years later.

8. In 1762, James Cook married Elizabeth Batts at Barking, just to the east of London. They were married for sixteen years and had six children. They spent only four years of their marriage together. Elizabeth Cook died in 1835 while in her nineties, living longer than all her children. Elizabeth burned all James’ papers and letters shortly before she died.

9. 1768-71: First Voyage round the world in the ship Endeavour. 1772-75: Second Voyage round the world in the ships Resolution and Adventure. 1776-80: Third Voyage round the world in the ships Resolution and Discovery, completed without him.

10. As a result of his experiences of astronomical observation and obvious skill in navigation and cartography, Cook was appointed leader of an expedition to observe the transit of Venus from Tahiti organised by the Royal Society, in association with the Navy Board and funded by King George III. The Admiralty were less interested in astronomical observation than in the opportunity such a voyage offered for the secret exploration of the south-west of the South Sea (Pacific) for the Great South Land—Terra Australis Incognita. When the expedition returned in July 1771, the transit of Venus had been observed, an unprecedented number of botanical and zoological specimens collected, and though no Great South Land had been found, New Zealand and the east coast of New Holland (Australia) had been charted and claimed for King George III.

11. On 7 March 1776 Cook was admitted to the Royal Society for his success in defeating scurvy amongst his crew during his voyages and his paper on nutrition aboard the Resolution was awarded the prestigious Copley Medal, judged to be the best experimental research of the year. Elizabeth accepted the award however, as Cook had left on a third voyage in 1776 to search for a Pacific entrance to the legendary Northwest Passage between the Atlantic and Pacific, believed to lie north of Canada.

12. Following Cook’s death in 1779, the Endeavour journal of James Cook is thought to have been held by his wife Elizabeth. There is no record of the journal’s movements following Elizabeth Cook’s death in 1835 until its appearance in 1923 when it was offered at auction by its owners the Bolckow family of Yorkshire. The family were unable to explain how they came to hold the journal. It had apparently been in the family’s library ‘for upward of fifty years, having been purchased by the late Bolckow’s uncle, but from whom and in what circumstances is unknown’.

On 21 March 1923 the Australian government purchased the Endeavour journal for £5000 for the Commonwealth Parliamentary Library.

13. James Cook died in 1779. His last voyage was characterised by violence. Cook meted out increasingly severe punishments to indigenous peoples following the theft of various articles whilst at the Friendly Islands (Tonga), St George’s Island (Tahiti) and the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii). And on 14 February 1779 Cook and four marines were killed on the beach at Kealakekua Bay while seeking the return of the Discovery’s large cutter.

James Cook was a great leader of men and his skills in navigation led him to rise from ordinary seaman to a position of rank. Many of his charts were in use until recent times and were very close to satellite images of the land masses.

Thursday, February 28th, 2008
The Care and Feeding of Candles

Thirteen Things about CANDLES

In case people haven’t guessed I visited my local candle shop in the weekend. It’s called RETREAT and for those who live in New Zealand, they have stores in Glenfield, Newmarket, Sylvia Park and Manukau.

1. Candles convey messages of warmth, romance, spirituality and brightness and they are embraced by lots of different creeds, religions and nationalities.

2. The Egyptians have been credited with soaking reeds in animal fats for rushlights. But the truth is all civilizations have a history of illumination.

3. Tealights are tiny candles, encased in a thin metal or plastic cover. The candle liquifies totally while lit and burn times can vary from four to nine hours.

4. Votives need to be placed inside a tight-fitting holder to maximise burn times.

5. Pillars are free-standing and are long-burning, available in a round or square shape. They can have multiple wicks and are excellent for grouping with other sizes and accessorizing to add the final touches to home or office.

6. Floating candles create light in a bowl, fountain or pool. These are specially designed to float on water.

7. Do not leave a burning candle unattended.

8. Trim candlewick to 5mm EACH time before burning.

9. Burn for 1 hour per 2cm in diameter. Noe: a candle has a memory. That is, it will only burn to the same diameter it was last burnt to.

10. Candles make great decorations and provide good mood lighting, but cleaning up dried wax drippings is never fun. Here’s a video about removing candle wax.

11. Never touch or move a burning candle when the wax is liquid. That means not playing with a burning candle, Mr. Munro. :mrgreen:

12. Flickering candles are one of the simplest and yet most magical ways of adding atmosphere to a scene. Ask your local candle shop about home decorating, color coordination, aromatheraphy, home fragrancing and everything candle. They’re the experts! The staff at RETREAT are certainly very knowledgable.

13. Think about personalised candles for a gift. RETREAT will design special candles for birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, memorials, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s day and any other special event. They can be decorated with text, ribbon, graphics and photos. Your imagination is the only limit.

What do you think about candles? Do you like them? Do you have candles in your house?

Thursday, February 21st, 2008
Absolutely, Positively Wellington

In honor of my recent visit to Wellington, THIRTEEN THINGS about WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND.

1. Wellington is the captial of New Zealand.

2. It is VERY hilly, even more so than Auckland and San Francisco. After a day spent exploring, I woke up the next day with sore thigh muscles. No need to buy a thigh master, just visit Wellington!

3. The city of Wellington is known for its wind. Evidently this is because of its position to Cook Strait. (the passage of water between the North and South Islands of New Zealand. The prevailing North-West winds accelerate through the strait giving 173 days with winds greater than 60kph (32 knots) each year on average.

4. There’s an inland island rare bird sanctuary only 5 minutes drive from the center of Wellington, which is pretty amazing. See yesterday’s post.

5. The parliament buildings are known as the Beehive because of their shape. The Beehive is the newer parliament buildings while the old building is the elegant one alongside.

Beehive, Wellington, NZ

6. People seem to build their houses on top of hills and they balance precariously. Many of the homes are original Victorian buildings.

7. Wellington is home to Peter Jackson and sometimes called Wellywood.

8. Our national musuem Te Papa is in Wellington. My favorite part was about our animals and I really enjoyed the section on our geology. Mr. Munro and I went into the earthquake simulation, which was amazing – an old building that shook and trembled. The earth moved! In fact, the earth kept moving for a while after we left. It was neat but weird, too.

Te Papa, WellingtonMoa, Te Papa, Wellington

This is one of the Maori panels plus a model of a moa and our local hawk. Both birds are extinct now but were the largest birds in the world at the time.

9. Wellington sits on a fault line and they have lots of earthquakes.

10. Mt. Victoria gives a scenic view of the city and harbor. I’m glad we could drive up rather than walking! This is me up the top of Mt. Victoria.

Shelley, Mt. Victoria, Wellington

11. There are quite a few vineyards around. We went to Martinborough – a relief to walk around here since it was flat!!

12. All the vineyards are close to town. We hired bikes and rode around the vineyards.

Biking, Martinborough

13. And we stopped to have lunch and sample some of the wines. This is me relaxing at lunch. We rode around 10kms on our bikes before heading back to the hotel to soak in a spa bath. A very relaxing weekend.

Martinborough Vineyards

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others’ comments. It’s easy, and fun! Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!
View More Thursday Thirteen Participants

Wednesday, February 20th, 2008
Inland Island: Karori Wildlife Sanctuary

During our recent trip to Wellington we visited the Karori Wildlife Sanctuary. As the name suggests, it’s a special sanctuary for some of our endangered native birds. The 225 hectare site includes two dams that used to supply the city of Wellington with water. It was decided that the dams might break during an earthquake and a decision was made to lower the dams and use the area as an inland island. The first step was to fence the area with pest free fences.

Pest free fences, Karori Sanctuary

These fences stop possums, stoats, weasels, ferrets, rats and mice from entering the sanctuary. Once the fences were installed a pest-control plan was put in place. A year later all 13 major pests in the area were fully eradicated. Thousands of native trees were planted (the area was previously all in pine) and this planting continues. The long-term vision for the project is to return the area to its original undisturbed state and this will take around 500 years.

Some of New Zealand’s endangered wildlife has been released in the pest-free area including brown teal ducks, the little spotted kiwi, giant wetas, tuatara, stitchbird, North Island saddleback, weka, North Island robin and bellbirds to name a few.

On entry to the sanctuary staff checked my bag for mice, cats, rats and other pests. Thankfully, my bag was found pest-free! I know I would have been more shocked than anyone if a mouse had jumped out. We explored some of the many paths, pausing to peer through the treetops searching for birds.

Lower dam, Karori Sanctuary

We sighted saddlebacks and bellbirds, lots of tuis and fantails as well as some kaka (NZ variety of parrot). I’d never seen kaka up close so was fascinated to see them at the feeding stations.

Kaka, Karori Sanctuary

This photo shows two kaka. They’re a green parrot and blend in quite well with the trees, although they’re easy enough to spot because they make an awful screechy noise.

I would have loved to see a tuatara but since it was overcast they were all in their burrows, but we saw native fish and green geckos along with lots of our songbirds.

They also do a nocturnal tour where you can hear the evening song before the birds go to sleep and then go out hunting for the nocturnal kiwi. Maybe we’ll do this during another time. I’d highly recommend a visit to this sanctuary, if you’re ever down this end of the world.

Friday, February 15th, 2008
Windy Wellington

I’m off for a long weekend. Hubby and I are hitting Wellington, the capital of New Zealand and also Martinborough. Some of you might recall Lily and Alex from Never Send a Dog to do a Woman’s Job visited both places…

…which, leads in nicely to the fact that I’m the Spotlight Author at Author Island today. I’m giving away a print copy of Romancing the Alien.

How are you spending your weekend?