Monday, August 31, 2009

When Are We Ever Going to Use This?

by CiCi Barnes

Now that “Back to School” is well underway for Southerners, I reflect on my fellow teachers having to return to the classroom so early. Back in the day, we started after Labor Day, and still, in the South, it was too hot. I cranked up the air conditioner in my classroom and told my students who complained about the arctic freeze to bring a sweater or blanket. I would gladly keep it in my storage cabinet since I was obviously the only teacher who worked better in below zero temps.

I now sit by the pool in August sipping margaritas and contemplating what my former colleagues might say to their charges while melting during the first week of classes. My “Welcome Back” speech (with sound bites from the students and please keep in mind they were teenagers) went something like this:

“Welcome back. Isn’t it wonderful to sit in the nice air conditioning instead of slaving out in the hot sun?”

(Groan, mumble, #%*&$*#) (arms crossed; scowls on faces; desks rattling against each other as the students shiver)

“You will need a notebook and pencil. No pens. You can’t erase pens and believe me, you WILL need to erase.”

(Hand goes up) “They make erasable pens now. Can I use an erasable pen?”

“No. It doesn’t erase well enough. Pencils in math class.”

(Math books distributed immediately before they ask another question.)

“Now, open your books to page 1 and let’s begin.”

(Groan, mumble, #%*&$*#)(scowls on faces; desks rattling against each other as the students shiver)

(Hand goes up) “When are we ever going to use this?”

Ah, the one question I knew I would hear.

“Why, just yesterday, I was walking down the street, and lo and behold, there was an equation lying on the sidewalk waiting for me to solve it,” I said without blinking an eye. After 21 years in the biz, you have your answers lined up, because you already know the questions.

(Groan, mumble, #%*&$*#, a few snickers)

Not sure if they truly thought that was funny or if there was a suck-up in the class.

On and on and on . . . you get the picture.

Now, 10 years wiser and embarking on a new career of writing, I would have different answers in the queue.

(Hand goes up) “When are we ever going to use this?”

“You just never know.”

Here I am, a considerably mature woman – which, by the way we will discuss at length next month pertaining to mature heroines, so stay tuned – who has spent most of her life solving equations from simple algebra to complex trig and calculus. Now, I’m in the throes of a new career. I don’t need to know what x equals any longer; I need to know what a gerund is, what a dangling participle is, how to insert conflict into a simple idea, understand how to put hidden meaning into a sentence or even a word. Even how to enliven characters by describing their teeth, etc, as we learned last week.

I must admit I’m guilty of asking the ‘when are we ever going to use this’ question to my English teachers. I saw no need to read Beowulf in Gaelic. Actually, I saw no reason to read Beowulf at all. I didn’t need to know what some long-dead poet meant by his ramblings. It was all Greek to me and the only Greek I was interested in was Pythagoras. Now there was a guy I could get into.

But I have lived and learned that learning takes place all your life. Careers change. Just ask all those people who’ve been laid off from their jobs and are scrounging to learn other skills.

With my children out of the house, I have slightly more leisure time to watch the History Channel on occasion. Wow! The things those programs teach you about dead presidents, the galaxy, Nostrodamus, and ice-road truckers. I’m a proverbial walking encyclopedia. You remember those, don’t you? Books that college students used to hawk door-to-door to make money for tuition. I have two different sets in my study . . . collecting dust.

I now sit at my computer, cursing my days of letting the English lessons travel through my brain to some void in the great beyond, because I was ‘never going to use it’. I consult my thesaurus, my dictionary, my internet explorer and my English major friends for all the ins and outs of the English language and grammar.

I can prove to you that 2 = 1 using algebraic properties, but I can’t, for the life of me, figure out where all the commas go.

So when do we use all that stuff they throw at us in school?

You just never know.

So learn. Learn for the fun of it. Learn to impress your friends and strangers. Learn so you can do a crossword puzzle without using a dictionary. Learn, so when you change jobs, you won’t have to start from scratch. Learn, so your teachers won’t come back to haunt you and say I told you so.

What have you learned and used that you never thought you would?

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Winners of Anna DeStefano's ARCs of DARK LEGACY

Congratulations to our two winners of an ARC of DARK LEGACY:

Crystal GB


Deidre Durance

Ladies, please send your snail mail addresses to

For those of you who didn't win, Anna still has great prizes on her blog for more chances to win great prizes like Dream Flutters Jewelry, an XOXO Butterfly Purse and tomorrow's grand prize, a COACH Butterfly Purse, to celebrate Dark Legacy's June 25th release date!!!

School Marms?

We're switching topics this week and saying goodbye to August. Hope to see you as we discuss the older heroine and other topics of interest.

By the way, don't forget to check out our polls on the sidebar. Petit Fours and Hot Tamales wants YOU! And your feedback. Thanks to all our wonderful readers for participating!

Monday, August 31: CiCi BarnesWhen are We Ever Going to Use This?
Tuesday, September 1: Nicki SalcedoLose 30 lbs, Write a Book, Save the World
Wednesday, September 2: Tami Brothers - Confession Time!
Thursday, September 3: Marilyn BaronBridging the Generation Gap
Friday, September 4 Guest Chef: Jill Sorenson

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Saturday Review

My Life in Ruins

Stars: Nia Vardalos, Alexis Georgoulis, Richard Dreyfuss
Fox Searchlight Productions
Movie PG-13

Georgia (Nia Vardalos of My Big Fat Greek Wedding fame) wants to do more than be a tour guide for a group of rag-tag tourists in Greece, especially when they care nothing about the architecture, culture or history. Their only interests are shopping, going to the beach and having fun. Georgia is up tight and ridged, not endearing herself to the group. The tour bus driver, Poupy (Alexis Georgoulis) turns out to be a sexy young man that understands the importance of having a job you enjoy and loving life. With his help and the help of the character played by Richard Dryfuss, Georgia begins to let go and have some fun. The tour group starts to jell as a group and is supportive of Georgia, which ends up helping her to keep her job. She finds love in Poupy’s arms.

I would wait to see this movie when it comes to TV. There wasn’t enough conflict in it to really hold it together. The best part of the movie was the beautiful scenery. Greece is gorgeous, and this movie does a great job of showcasing that.

3 Petit Fours and 2 Hot Peppers
Reviewed By: Susan May

Black Hills

Author: Nora Roberts

Publisher: G.P. Putnam Sons, New York
Publication Date: July 7, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-399-15581-9
Genre: Romantic Suspense

Nora Roberts hits another home run with Black Hills. In this hardcover novel, she pairs South Dakota wildlife biologist Lil Chance with New York ex-cop/investigator Cooper Sullivan. The two met when eleven-year-old Cooper came out to visit his grandparents on a neighboring ranch. Each year during his annual summer visit they grow closer until their friendship turns into something deeper. But the lovers go in different directions and Coop breaks Lil’s heart for reasons she can’t fathom. They meet again 12 years later when Cooper comes back to South Dakota to help his aging grandparents run their ranch. Lil has been a success and followed her dream to create the Chance Wildlife Refuge. Cooper, who is cut off from his family fortune because he refuses to join his father’s law firm, is independent, still struggling and trying to prove himself.

Suspense mounts as they rediscover each other, and confront a killer who is stalking Lil and who was responsible for killing a hiker whose body Lil and Coop discovered years ago.

I’ve never been to South Dakota but Nora makes the Black Hills come alive. She creates wonderful central characters, a serial-killer villain and a suspenseful story that will keep you on edge until the end. Nora Roberts never disappoints.

Reviewed by: Marilyn Baron
Ratings: 5 Petit Fours & 2 Hot Tamales

Author: Diana Holquist
Publisher: Forever
ISBN-10: 0446617989
ISBN-13: 978-0446617987
Genre: Romance


What happens when you are debilitating shy around good looking men? So much so that it affects your livelihood? Now add in a prophecy from your gypsy sister telling you your One True Love happens to be the world’s biggest (and sexiest) movie star. This is exactly what Jasmine Burns is dealing with. Things only gets crazier when the planets align and Jasmine gets that dream job and then the guy. But is it too good to be true? Throw in a devious former classmate, a jealous pretend girlfriend, then the unpredictable gypsy sister (oh and don’t forget Oprah) and you have utter chaos. Will Jasmine survive it all with her dignity intact? Better yet, will she get to keep the Sexiest Man Alive?

Talk about a fun story. Diana Holquist did a fabulous job of crafting an attention grabbing story with a hilarious crew of misfits. The Sexiest Man Alive was a tantalizing glimpse into the behind the scenes lives of the rich and famous. Her characters were sexy and fun, with a whole lot of off-the-wall personalities. I really enjoyed immersing myself into Jasmine and Toby’s lives and am already searching for the other stories in this series.

Reviewed By: Tami Brothers
Rating: 5 Petit Fours and 3 Hot Tamales

Friday, August 28, 2009

Petit Fours and Hot Tamales Welcomes Author, Anna DeStefano

When Dreams Meet Reality

I'm over the moon excited to bring my blog tour to PF&HT. Thanks to all the hosts and readers for sharing this amazing experience with me—the release of my debut paranormal romantic suspense Dark Legacy. Check the excerpts on my blog, and you'll see that I'm fascinated with dreams these days. Probably because I'm right smack dab in the middle of living a dream come true!

Now, if you've read any of my classic romances from Harlequin and Silhouette, you already know that my characters have to work a bit for their happily ever afters. Dark Legacy's no exception. But it's the long road to something new that makes the journey and the reward that much sweeter—for a story's characters and in real life.

Take my word for it. I still love writing my Harlequins and hope I'll always have a footprint in classic romance. But I think I've been waiting to write my Legacy series since I penned those first few tentative sentences nearly ten years ago. Now that the timing's right, I have a super supportive new publisher with great plans for my books and an original idea I honestly think I can write into for many, many years to come. A contemporary paranormal world that I look forward to delving into each morning...because that's my job! What could be better?

No, it's still not easy. And there are always new dreams on my horizon. New things to aspire to and work super hard for. But that's what our dreams do for us, I think. They point the way and reveal what we're willing to sacrifice for. They're markers along the path, so we can look back when we celebrate an accomplishment and see how far we've come.

The key is to welcome your dreams in. Don't be afraid. Don't hide from them or avoid taking a closer look. Embrace your dreams, my friends. See the you you're wanting to be, and find a way to be just that! I promise, all the hard work and believing, no matter how difficult the journey, will pay off ;o)

I've been researching and writing about dreams for the last two years, but I've been in love with the beauty of dreams all my life. What's your experience with the stories your mind tells you each night, and the fantasies you secretly want for yourself when you're awake? How have dreams enriched and changed your life?

Leave a comment to be in the running for a signed Dark Legacy ARC. I'll be giving away 2 copies to PF&HT visitors today. And keep checking my blog for more chances to win great prizes like Dream Flutters Jewelry, an XOXO Butterfly Purse and tomorrow's grand prize, a COACH Butterfly Purse, to celebrate Dark Legacy's June 25th release date!!!

To read an excerpt of DARK LEGACY, click HERE

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Let’s Face It: Using Physiognomy for Character Development

By J Perry Stone

If any of you remember reading Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales in high school, I’ll bet you still have some vague recollection of the Wife of Bath.

Remember her? Married multiple times, buried all her husbands and was left with lots of moolah?

If you must know, I had to seriously jog my memory to come up with those details because they are completely eclipsed in my memory by Chaucer’s description of that enormous gap between her teeth.

You see, Chaucer was a student of physiognomy--the study of a person's character based on their outward appearance. The gap between the Wife’s front teeth told 14th century readers more than they ever needed to know about her sexual prowess--hence the multiple husbands … perhaps even the cause of their deaths. :)

Of course today, the idea of physiognomy has certainly taken a back seat in the age of psychology. We know that psychopathic serial killers can look like Ted Bundy, and no matter the soft look of Osama Bin Laden’s eyes, he sees Americans through a veil of hatred. But these are psychopathic types. The villains. Those with an innate ability to hide their true nature.

More often than not, however, there is some truth of a person that shows on their face. Even my sweet sister, while extricating herself from her devil-man ex husband, broke out with such a horrid case of acne, all I could think when looking at her was that her body was desperately trying to rid itself of the poison in her life. What’s more, I’ve seen rather narcissistic people from my past age in a puffy-faced manner, as though years and years of only thinking about themselves has over-bloated them--their eyes now small and squinty because they simply cannot see beyond themselves.

Even my own take on life is showing on my face. Around my mouth, I have pretty deep parenthesis lines. It’s from smiling. Of course, I also have a groove between my eyebrows, but I take comfort in the fact that the parenthesis is deeper than the exclamation mark.

As for writing, I read an article in RWR recently that said, “Give your character some detail that shows exactly who they are.” In this case, physiognomy can be a writer’s best friend--particularly when said writer is stuck.

Gap between the teeth = slut (Madonna anyone?)
Broad forehead, high hairline = brainiac
Large, bulbous features that smile easily = someone who is partial to drink

In my own writing, I’ve used physiognomy to help pin down secondary characters in particular. See if you can guess what I’m trying to say about Mrs. Jenkins:

She had a flared-nostril, stretched-necked look about her, as though she had to labor to look down upon the multitude of sinners scuttling about her feet.

Religious zealot, right? Judgmental bitch, right? Of course the stretched-neck part always reminds me of Carol Burnett’s version of Norma Desmond, but paired with the flared nostrils, I think Mrs. Jenkins takes on a rather condemnatory appearance. Don’t believe me? Try it in the mirror.

Physiognomy can work with any character type. Is your character obsequious, timid and unassuming? He or she has no sharp lines in their face, no hard angles, no overtly-pointed point of view.

But there is always something more you can say about a person in addition to their specific features.

Roald Dahl, in his story The Twits, writes:

If a person has ugly thoughts, it begins to show on the face. And when that person has ugly thoughts everyday, every week, every year, the face gets uglier and uglier until it gets so ugly you can hardly bear to look at it. A person who has good thoughts cannot ever be ugly. You can have a wonky nose and a crooked mouth and double chin and stick-out teeth, but if you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.

Yes exactly.

Now it is your turn. Think of one of your characters, or even a memorable character you’ve read, and tell me how their outer appearance helps show who they are inside. Do you think physiognomy could help you develop your characters? What feature on your face is a telltale hint as to who you are?


Wow! What a great blog post we had from Kim Castillo, Romance Author's Best Friend!

Our winner from yesterdays comments is:


Pam, send your snail mail address to me: and we'll be sure to get that book right out to you?

Of course, everyone who read Kim's post and follows her great advice is a winner anyway. Check out her website:

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

An Author's Best Friend, Kim Castillo on Author Marketing

Kim Castillo truly is the Author's Best Friend. A life-long bookworm, Kim started out with the Boxcar Children and Nancy Drew, and then turned her love of great fiction to the romance genre. Now alpha heroes and happily ever afters are a pre-requisite for her bookshelves.

Kim was rescued from the drudgery of a 9-to-5 job when she discovered that she had a passion and knack for marketing. Soon her marketing and organizational skills found a niche in the romance novel industry she loves so much. As a freelance personal assistant, she spends her days working with the crème de la crème of best-selling and award winning authors such as Julia Quinn, Eloisa James, Madeline Hunter, Mary Jo Putney and Julia London, to name a few.

The work Kim does for authors – everything from bookseller outreach to managing websites and contests – makes her authors’ lives easier, giving them more time to write and be with their families. Visit Kim's website at

Kim Castillo and her friends, JPerry and Santa

Marketing: When Time and Money Matter

There are several questions I get asked over and over again: How did you start doing what you do? followed closely by, What exactly is it you do? (Don't ask, I don't even know!) From authors I get: What are the best promotion ideas? and, Where will I get the most bang for my promotional buck.

My answers to all of these are an assortment of "ancient Chinese secrets" and "if I tell you I'd have to..." It gets tricky. There are no clear cut answers to what's the best promotional approach. The biggest thing you can do, even before you sell your first book is to write the best book possible. That's the one thing that is quantitative and over which you have absolute control (at least until your editor gets a hold of it). When you write "The End" you need to know that the story you told was the best you could tell.

Aside from that, here are some of my standard promotional suggestions:

Website! You MUST have a website and you MUST update it regularly.

Networking sites. It is vital that you're out there networking. Consider it a 365-a-day cyber RWA conference. I already hear some of you saying "it takes too much time" or "I don't want to." Yes, it does take time. Set your timer to ten-fifteen minutes, send out a few friend requests, respond to messages and wall comments or twitters, put up any new information you have, and then log out. Also, turn your chat feature off.

Bookseller outreach. I can't tell you how important I feel this is. Booksellers are a direct bridge to readers. Educate them, court them. It doesn't have to be extravagant, but you need to reach out to them in some way.

My other biggest suggestion/piece of advice is when you get into promotion, you need to set boundaries. Decide what your dollar budget is going to be, look at the promotions you'd like to do, get estimates, and then see what you can afford. Only do what you're comfortable with. If the thought of a blog-tour makes you queasy, don't do it.

The biggest problem with promotion is that in the book world, you can’t break down the benefits to your business in cold hard cash. You know how much you’ve spent on promotions, but how do you really gauge how successful it was. You can do promotions a, b and c for books 1 and 2. Book 1 might hit the list and the top ten of Bookscan. Book 2 might not even register on Bookscan. There's no telling why. Maybe there was an issue at Levy/Andersen. Maybe there was a snowstorm in the entire Midwest that halted deliveries for two weeks. Charlaine Harris might have the top fifteen spots on the NYT. One or all of these reasons may come into play which is why I say, only do what you're comfortable with. At the end of the day all you're going to be able to do and say is, "I wrote the best darn book I could. Now it’s out of my hands"

What's the coolest promotion for a book you ever saw? Did you buy that book?
Please ask any question you'd like! I'll be popping in and out all day and will answer as best I can.

I have one copy of The 101 Habits of Highly Successful Novelists: Insider Secrets from Top Writers to share with someone who comments today. My dear Eloisa James contributed to this book and she also donated this copy!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Artist's Path

Keeping with my theme this month – and just to make things super-simple for myself I have the same theme across every area of my life – I’m trying to figure out the right path for this year. Between my student years and my teacher years I have been in school for 28 years. The result is that my “new year” resolutions are always sparked by looming September. The months of June/July/August are like mystery meat on the cafeteria menu. They exist and they look like time, but really, they aren’t. So, when it’s almost September I start evaluating the past year and trying to figure out how to improve my “lesson plans” for the coming year.

My theme this year is KBO: Keep Bungling On. Last year was Press On so some of you will wonder about why I’m so concerned with the whole motion thing. Hey, I’m going with it. Get it! So, as part of my attempt to sort myself out I’ve started reading my tarot cards every morning. I do a really simple spread – 1. Theme of the Day 2. What Lies Below the Surface 3. Advice From Above. The advice I get is usually something along the lines of – Keep Bungling On.

In my Bungling I happened across a really great spread that is called The Artist’s Path and I thought I would share it here for those of you who might want to Bungle With Direction. I’ve done this spread with many of my artist friends (I’m not a professional tarot reader and you will not see me on the Psychic Network any time soon, no worries!) and it’s been really interesting to see what comes up. So, the spread is pretty simple (I’ve included diagrams just in case anyone wants – and you can email me through my website for a pdf of the instructions). I did not invent this spread, it came from a great artist named Monicka Sakki, you can find her at

If the idea of Tarot terrifies you, then you could always just “think” about these questions and then journal about them.

What is your self-image of an Artist? What is your relationship with this identity?
Where are you now, while looking at your path with an Artist's eye?
What is the driving force; what feeds the internal springs of your creativity?
What external factors or forces inspire you? What gets you going?
What blocks your creativity?
When you're blocked, what do you do instead of creating? How do you spend (or squander) your time?
What are your views on the relationship between Creativity and Money?
What you need to give up in order to pursue your Artist's path?
What you need to do next, to make sure you walk forth down the creative path you've chosen?
After dealing the nine cards of the Artist's Path spread in the form of an arrow, but before reading it, place The Artist card as a Significator at the end of the spread (S/10). This card is You. Accept your creative powers and responsibilities, and your Artist's Path ahead will be clear.

Now turn the cards face up one by one and begin to read the spread in the arrow form.

What I like about this spread is that last part - Accept Your Creative Powers and Responsibilities. In other words, KBO People - KBO!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Book Ideas

“Where do you get your book ideas?”

This is one of the most common questions asked an author. The response is usually that the author writes what she knows. One of my books is called “The Substitute that wouldn’t Die.” And I’m writing what I know.
I started my seventeenth year as a substitute teacher this month. Thirteen of those years have been spent at the high school level. I work a lot. Some years I’m more full- time than the regular teachers. I’ve been working at Cass High School longer than the majority of the staff. This year is the first year in a number of years that I didn’t go to work on the first day of school. But I did work the third day.
Though the years I’ve written down snippets that have happened both happy and sad.. The title for my book comes from the time a student came into class, saw me and asked, “Weren’t you my kindergarten substitute?” I had been. He didn’t look happy to see me again, bless his heart.
I’ve written a group of short stories about the characters (students) that have passed though my classes. One of these is about a boy that had me every day for six long weeks, got a two week reprieve, and had me in a different subject for six more weeks. We got to know each other well and are still great friends. Another is about the girl that asked me to check on the number of her excused absents, and I discovered she forged some of her doctor’s notes. No, she wasn’t the sharpest tool in the shed. She got ISS for a week. I also have stories of when I arrived at school to find out one of the students had died the night before in an auto accident and I had to deal with the emotions in the classroom. My stories go on and on – enough to fill a book.
Going back to school this year has already added new stories to my list. By the end of the year I should have many more.
Even my romance heart can see a story in two teachers coming together to help a student in need…
What kind of stories can you build from your everyday life?

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Next Week's Teachers

Join us starting next Monday for more inspiring posts. Next week, you get two guest chefs for the price of one!

Monday, August 24: Susan May Book Ideas
Tuesday, August 25: Michelle NewcomeThe Artist's Path
Wednesday, August 26: Guest Chef: Kim CastilloRomance Author's Best Friend
Thursday, August 27: J Perry Stone - Let's Face It: Using Physiognomy for Character Development
Friday, August 28: Guest Chef: Anna DeStefano

Winner for Jessica Lee's Loose Id Certificate

Congratulations to Carol Burnside!!

She is the lucky winner of the Loose Id gift certificate.

Hope you enjoy, Carol! I am forwarding your email to Jessica Lee.

And many thanks to Jessica for being here with us. Look for a review of Jessica's Desire to Die For next Saturday.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Saturday Review

Dark Legacy

Author: Anna DeStefano,
Publisher: Dorchester Publishing
Publication Date: August 25, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-505-528193
Genre: Romantic Suspense and Paranormal

Anna DeStefano’s Dark Legacy, Book 1 of her Legacy series, will drive you crazy, literally. The main character Dr. Maddie Temple has recurring nightmares and dangerous daydreams triggered by her twin sister, Sarah. Sarah has been in a comma at the Trinity Psychiatric Research Center for the last 10 years, following a tragic auto accident in which their father was killed. To say this book is intense is an understatement. It combines paranormal and romantic suspense for a riveting read.

Using Dream Weaver techniques, Sarah can link with a host’s unconscious mind and implant a custom-designed dream that can be triggered later. But someone sinister at the research center, a government defense program which is trying to weaponize daydreaming, is in control of Sarah’s psychic ability and wants to exploit the girls’ power.

Maddie’s love interest, Dr. Jarred Keith, can also participate in the Temple twins’ psychic link and place himself into the girls’ dreams. Sarah, and eventually Maddie, will need the help of Jarred and Dr. Richard Metting, Sarah’s control at the center, to escape the center and untangle their own dark legacy, a 200-year-old curse on their family that speaks of the battle between good and evil. But can the girls trust their doctors and rely on each other?

“Mind Your Own Business” doesn’t apply to the characters in this book. If you start to hear voices while you’re reading this book, you’re not alone. Everyone is in everyone else’s brain and in each other’s minds and thoughts. Dark Legacy is a great concept, with a surprise ending that sets up the book for a sequel called Secret Legacy.

Reviewed by: Marilyn Baron
Ratings: 4 Petit Fours & 2 Hot Tamales

The Proposal

Starring: Sandra Bullock, Ryan Reynolds
Touchstone Pictures
Romance/Comedy PG-13

Margaret Tate(Sandra Bullock) is a controlling- domineering- publishing- executive in New York. Andrew Paxton(Ryan Reynolds) is her assistant that does everything for her, including getting her coffee. When Margaret is going to be deported, she demands that Ryan married her. He agrees, if she will see to it that he gets an editor’s job. They are investigated by INS and visit his family is Alaska to show they are not lying. The plot becomes funnier and more heartwarming as they learn more about each other. Margaret, at the wedding decides to come clean, making Ryan admit in front of his family he has been deceiving them. After Margaret returns to New York, Ryan realizes he loves her. He comes to the publishing office, telling her she is no longer his boss and asks her to marry him.
I was in encouraged to see this movie by another romance writer. She said it was a good example of flawed characters. She was right. I thought the movie was great and those flaws added conflict which made the story wonderful. I would see this movie over and over. I even plan to buy it on DVD, which I almost never do. It was the best movie of the summer, I believe.
5-Petit Fours and 4 Hot Peppers (There is a nude scene.)
Reviewed by: Susan May

The Dark-Hunters, Vol. 1 (Dark-Hunter Manga)

Author: Sherrilyn Kenyon Art by: Claudia Campos
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Genre: Romance, Comic Book
ISBN-10: 0312376871
ISBN-13: 978-0312376871

This is soooo cool! A romance novel with pictures! What more could I ask for?

Sherrilyn Kenyon is amazing. Her Dark-Hunter world is a phenomenon in itself. Her readers are worldwide and truly dedicated. Not only is she a fabulous story teller, but now she’s giving us a visual media that adds to the experience. Read like a true manga style comic book, back to front, right to left, it can be a tad bit intimidating for a novice comic reader. Yet the visual story makes it well worth the time it takes to learn the format.

This first manga style book is the introductory peak into how the secret world of Daimons/Apollites and Dark-Hunters interact with the dull world we currently live in; kind of a vampire/slayer type of story, but with a Greek mythological twist. The love story between Kyrian and Amanda is sexy as hell and this format brings the badass Dark-Hunter and sweet good-girl accountant to life. The pictures make it fun to watch the love blossom. Throw in a murderous Daimon (Kenyon’s version of vampires) trying to kill them both and you have a fast paced read guaranteed to leave you dreaming about Greek hunks in leather driving fast cars. Just typing this has me wanting to flip to the chase scene again…

Jump on the bandwagon now! Manga style comic books are taking the world by storm. Warning!!! This is definitely a book worth taking a look at, but I can almost guarantee you will be hooked as a fan and running to the stores to buy the other books in the series. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Reviewer: Tami Brothers
Rating(s): 5 Petit Fours and 2 Hot Tamales (only 2 because this book ended before the heated love scenes Kenyon is known for – can’t wait for the next release to see how they handle that!)

Friday, August 21, 2009

Petit Fours and Hot Tamales Welcomes Debut Author, Jessica Lee

Petit Fours and Hot Tamales is excited to welcome debut author, Jessica Lee, whose first novel, an erotic paranormal, DESIRE TO DIE FOR, was just released by Loose-Id. Jessica Lee lives in the southeastern USA with her husband and son. She loves writing, and can’t wait for that quiet time each day when her son is in school and she can get lost in another place and world with the fantastical, sexy creatures in her head. She’s a member of Romance Writers of America, FF&P, Carolina Romance Writers and Passionate Ink.

By Jessica Lee

Snap, Crackle, KaPow!! That’s what I love to feel between my hero and heroine when they collide. Like fireworks sparking and exploding between them. Isn’t that what you’re looking forward to when you pick up that romance novel or download it from your favorite ePublisher? I know I am. Their chemistry and the sexual tension is what makes it so good.

The sizzle of sexual tension between your protagonists is not always easy to create and to keep flowing, burning up the pages. But man, as a reader, you miss when it isn’t there. I’m a big fan of romance, and It’s that connection between the couple, at the big bang level, that keeps me coming back for more.

Karen Marie Moning is an author I personally feel who does an exceptional job creating sexual tension between her hero and heroine that sizzles. Her Highlander series, from cover to cover, is filled with chemistry that’s heats up the pages. Her work has truly been an inspiration to me.

Then of course, there is Lora Leigh. Love her. Talk about animal magnetism and sizzle. If you haven’t read her Breed series, and you’re in the mood for a little tension and spice, you’ve come to the right place.

When creating that spark of chemistry between my hero and heroine and to keep it on the page, there are three things, or an ABC rule, that I have to keep in mind.

A.The immediate reference I have on hand is the Twelve Steps of Intimacy. The research of Dr. Desmond Morris, a behavioral scientist, documented these twelve steps and theorized that there is a sequence of events that must be followed in order for a couple to properly bond. it’s an invaluable tool to keep on hand when you’re introducing your couple and as their romance builds.

1)Eye to Body : This step is almost insignificant. All it means is that one person has seen another. This stage usually passes quickly.
2)Eye to Eye : This is the stage of eye contact. Each person knows the other has seen them, and this may be the beginning of flirting.
3)Voice to Voice : In this stage, the couple begins to talk to each other. Can be one sided, or a dialogue.
4)Hand to Hand: This stage is holding hands. This is when the relationship begins to deepen from simple friendship.
5)Arm to Shoulder: Putting the arm around the shoulder of the other person signifies a deepening closeness and intimacy. When holding hands there still is often some space between the partners, but in the Arm to shoulder stage closeness is practically intrinsic.
6)Arm to Waist: The arm to waist stage is indicative of a growing familiarity and comfort level in the relationship.
7)Mouth to Mouth : This is the stage when the couple begins kissing.
8)Hand to Head : Touching other people's heads is highly intimate, partially because so many vital senses are concentrated in the head. This is a sign of deepening trust to allow someone else to touch your head.
9)Hand to Body : This is the stage where foreplay begins.
10)Mouth to Breast : Foreplay continues, obviously.
11)Hand to Genitals
12)Sexual Intercourse

Dr. Morris’s list can easily be found online. I located a copy to include here at

B.Consists of some wonderful advice I learned from Madeline Hunter in a workshop she presented to my chapter back in 2008. She stated that you have to keep your characters apart even as they’re getting together. Sounds simple enough, but it takes work and some careful story planning.

C.Involves merging A with B. Your couple’s attraction and the intimacy that you’ve built through the twelve steps, is the pull that makes them unable to resist coming back for more. But the conflict you’ve placed them in is the push that keeps them apart.

Making sure that conflict is strong enough to carry throughout the story, even though the relationship may have been consummated many times, is vital to keeping the kind of sexual tension that’s palpable until you write, The End.

My debut novel, Desire to Die For is available now at Loose Id. If sexy, tortured alpha male vampires are what you yearn for, then the Warriors of the Enclave have been waiting for you.


What characters have you found that spark the sizzle within you?
Leave a comment and I’ll pick one lucky winner at the end of the day to receive a $10gift certificate to Loose-Id!

Jessica Lee

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Characters Learn Too

by Carol Burnside

The return of students to their studies in the fall has no impact on my life that I can think of, except I might get a good deal on office supplies. Yep, that’s about the extent of it because my kids are unmarried adults who’ve not yet produced offspring. And even though I’ve left my college days far behind, I’ve tried to maintain a student mindset for everything I’ve endeavored to do in life.

We are students every day, learning from others. Our characters are no exception. As we throw obstacles in their path, they try new things and seek knowledge from others. In the process, they learn more about each other and their attraction grows. It’s this important step, this learning step that helps make their journey to love believable.

In the following excerpt from Her Unexpected Family, Claire is desperately clinging to Travis’ questionable reputation as a reason to avoid getting involved. He’s around a lot, renovating the salon where she works. When he and her client, a now married and pregnant former flame of his, conduct a reunion under her nose, she learns something unexpected.
- - - - -
“I can’t believe it. I haven’t seen Travis in years. He still looks good enough to...” Lisa giggled. “Well, he always was fine looking.”

Apparently she had no qualms about watching Travis walk away. Claire had the sudden urge to give the woman’s long shag a swift yank to turn her head around. She gripped the back of the chair, shocked by the intensity of ill will toward another person, but especially a woman in the late stages of pregnancy.

What had come over her?

“My parents nearly had a heart attack when they heard who I’d been caught necking with at school,” Lisa confided, as if Claire had expressed interest. “Travis was every dad’s nightmare and every good girl’s guilty dream. Boy, can he kiss.”

Yes. Yes, he could. Claire wanted to say the words aloud to silence the woman, but withheld comment.

“What are we doing today? A trim, or did you want a radical change this time?” The words were a little too hard, her smile a little too bright. Oops.

Lisa’s gaze locked with hers in the mirror. She clapped a hand across her mouth and grimaced. “I’m sorry. Me and my big mouth. I didn’t know y’all were—”

“We’re not. Truly. It was one date. A casual thing. Ages ago. His sister Rosie is a friend.”

“Oh.” Lisa looked at Claire as if she’d confessed to being a space alien, then a sly smile appeared. “Fell under his spell, didn’t you?”

“No, I—”

“Happens to the best of us, Sugar. It’s nothing to be ashamed of.” She glanced around, lowering her voice to a hair above a whisper when the dryer in the far corner shut off with a solid click. “Folks think he’s some kind of Lothario, but he’s not at all.

“I know it doesn’t jibe with his reputation, but Travis has a protective streak a mile wide. Plenty of girls went to him for the wrong reasons: shock value, they fought with their parents, wanted to make their boyfriends jealous, or found enough false courage in a bottle to take a risk. But he refused to bite.”

Claire threaded her fingers through Lisa’s hair, inspecting the ends with exaggerated concentration. “No product build-up this time. You still using a clarifying shampoo once a week?”

Lisa huffed, an annoyed expression crossing her delicate features. “Fine. Ignore me, but I can’t be the only person who’s noticed his decency.”

Claire hesitated, not wanting to keep the subject alive, but her conscience prickled. “I believe you. He was very much the gentleman on our date. Now, what about your hair? I’m running short on time.”

“Thanks, Claire. I’m sorry if I made you uncomfortable.”

She nodded her acceptance and waited.

Lisa sighed. “Yes. I’m using the shampoo as recommended. Just trim the ends this time. Nothing drastic until after my hormones settle.”

“Okay. Let’s head back to the sinks.” Somewhat mollified by the woman’s agreeable nature, Claire led the way.

As if Lisa had expended her energy reserves, she sank quietly into a comfortable position, closing her eyes when the warm spray flowed over her scalp.

Without the usual gossipy chatter to fill the void, Claire’s thoughts clung to Lisa’s comments about Travis. She’d known he wasn’t a ruthless womanizer after their date, but Lisa made him sound like a Boy Scout.

Claire’s conscience pinched. Maybe she should ease up on him a little. Her motives for dating him hadn’t exactly been pure, and it was kind of silly to resent him for being better than his reputation.

Truth was, her ego took a hit when he refused what she’d so blatantly offered. A million insecurities had crowded to the surface en masse, reducing her to the age of sixteen. She’d heard her own voice pleading with Bud to let her move in with him. The same degradation she’d felt as a result of his laughter and derisive comments had washed over her, and she couldn’t get Travis out the door fast enough.

Coupled with what she now realized was an overreaction the evening before, it amounted to her painting him with someone else’s brush. He probably thought she needed a straightjacket.
- - - - -
Don’t you just love that point in the love story when there’s a subtle shift and you just know that character is a goner, no matter what may be in store before the HEA? It’s the little ‘ahh’ moment that really starts them falling. Each time it’s unique to the characters involved.

Have you read such a moment that stuck with you? Maybe you’ve seen it in a movie, or written it in your own book. I’d love it if you’d share it with me in the comments.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Promise of Back to School

I’ve never been this excited for school to start.

Don’t get me wrong, I have been and always will be an unrepentant geek, but eight years of teaching high school will temper even the most avid scholar’s enthusiasm. No, I want my writing schedule back, and I’ll have it just as soon as my youngest starts preschool next week.

With all of the necessary preparations for school and all of the schedule juggling currently happening in the Kilpatrick house, I realized now is the perfect time to reassess my writing goals and habits. Sure, most people wait until January 1st, but at that point we’ve all been on vacation and it’s difficult to envision a new routine when you’re still trying to convince yourself to do whatever insane diet and exercise regimen you’ve concocted. School gives you structure. You might not always like that structure, but it’s there and it’s relatively unchanging.

Here are my helpful hints for getting it all together now:

1. Reevaluate your schedule. Are you writing at your most creative time? Can you juggle some of your activities to squeeze more time for writing? Now that the kiddies are wrapped up for a while maybe you can take advantage of the time they’re away. If you’re going to class, now’s the time to find time for writing and, oh yeah, homework.
2. Is your DVR clear and ready to go? I know, I know there’s a new season of television on the way, not to mention college football and the NFL. DVR is your friend. With DVR you can watch Castle or Leverage anytime you want. With DVR you can record the game and finish your writing then fast-forward through commercials as you watch to see who won. If you can’t tell, DVR has changed my life. (Imagine a slight catch in my voice here.)
3. Look at your goals. How are you doing for 2009? There’s no need to give up because you have almost five months to go. Reassess and get that nose back to the grindstone. Don’t forget the Golden Heart--it’s coming up fast! And you entered the Finish the Book Competition, right? Figure out how many pages are going to make that dream a reality.
4. Celebrate your successes. What have you accomplished that you set out to do for this year? Give yourself a well-earned pat on the back for achieving your goals. If you haven’t achieved any of your goals yet, find something to compliment yourself on. You’ve certainly done something this year.

Oh, and let’s not forget Moonlight and Magnolias! This is crunch time for the conference. Have you. . .

1. Registered? If not, go now. Don’t pass go and find a way to pay your $200 because it‘s worth every penny. There’s an article in the September issue of Writer’s Digest where at least one agent recommends getting face time with editors and agents as the most effective way to get your work seen. Which brings us to. . .
2. Signed up for your editor/agent appointment? Let’s go people. Priorities are based on when you registered until September 15th. Sign up for your favorites now so you can get your pick.
3. Made your business cards? You’ll need those to network, so go get them made.
4. Picked out your outfits? Remember professional attire, maybe business casual--last year Nicki picked out her outfits at least two months in advance. And don’t forget the Maggie Ceremonies--it’s dark, bad, or fun. Or it could be all of the above.
5. Finished your manuscript? Remember it’s bad form to pitch something that isn’t finished. I’ve done it, but I’m not proud. Even if you still have 200 pages to go that’s only 5 pages a day. Divide what you need by 40 and you’ll get an approximate estimate of how many pages per day you need.

Now, waltz into the school supply section of your favorite store and inhale deeply. Smell the paper, crayons and glue. Feel the prickles of anticipation of new classes and reuniting with old friends. Pick out some new pens and a spiffy new planner. Absorb the possibilities through your skin and remember that August, too, is a time of rebirth, a second chance to get serious about the promises you made in January. Let your inner bell ring and get to work!

It’s your turn. What have you accomplished this year? What do you still have to do? Don’t forget to add any other suggestions you have or any other feelings you have about the beginning of the school year.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

“The ABC’s of writing –(sort of)”

“The Beasts”
And other wordy-words that people are not in agreeance over

Cases in point:

Ever read a sentence and know exactly what it means, but you know the words used are ‘not real words’?

agreeance Everyone at the meeting was in agreeance over [the issue].

No, no, no. The solution you are suggesting is unpossible!

Irregardless of the consequences, I’ll do it!
This word seems to be a favorite. Irregardless is a word that many mistakenly believe to be correct usage in formal style, when in fact it is used chiefly in nonstandard speech or casual writing. Coined in the United States in the early 20th century, it has met with a blizzard of condemnation for being an improper yoking of irrespective and regardless and for the logic absurdity of combining the negative ir- prefix and -less suffix in a single term. In short: you really mean "regardless", not "irregardless".

Perhaps you were just thinking faster than your fingers could type, and perhaps ‘there are tines when you computer spell-check just completely lest you down.’

(sex scene) He leaned close and kissed her beasts.

No, it is not hard core porn. He kissed her “breasts”. (The critiqueer laughed hysterically.) (There’s another one. You know what I mean, but critiqueer??

(setting: they are both in their robes) She glanced at him and saw a tuft of hair peeking out of his robe.

Well, of course, you know the author meant his sexy chest hair.

Me? After my initial shock, I turned red and laughed.

There are times when we write using the language of our area:

Youse-guys come back to see me.
So wrong; so wrong. Yankees obviously.

“Y’all come back any ole time.”
I know. I don’t see anything wrong with that either!

Of course, we, as writers, are not alone. It is something everyone does from time to time.

These are actual excerpts from writers and speakers:

Benjamin Franklin was dogmental in all his views.

Mark Twain was not afraid to expose himself in literature.

He was being used as an escape goat.

It would be wrong to set such a president.

It’s almost undealable with.

First-born children do not get hammy downs but are often used as ginny pigs.

At first, I thought she had all timers or something.

The problem was that he had eaten too many heresy chocolate bars.

Retail customers please click here to sing in to your account.

Don’t speak on anything in such a manner that you know so little about.

It brings a simile to my face.

We write. We read. We spell-check. The pace is probably just too fast.
What are some of your favorites?


Monday, August 17, 2009

You Think I Do This For The Money?

I’ve been a romance writer for decades. I kid you not. Admittedly, For the first ten years or so, I didn’t really know what I was doing…I just wrote stories that spoke to me. I knew nothing of the publishing industry, nor did I have a clue as to what it took to get your book read and bought by those mysterious entities in their concrete and glass towers in New York. I just wrote.

The first novel I ever wrote filled a 3” 3-ring binder. Every page hand written. Looking back, it was terrible. I blush to admit ever conceiving the thing, much less putting it down on paper where any old person could pick it up and read it (Ahem, Mom!)

My story took place in Scotland in the 1700’s. There was no plot, no GMC. Run on sentences ran amok and my heroine was TSTL. My hero, though, was great. Tall, broad-shouldered, could wield a Claymore like a carving knife and he loved my heroine to distraction. He spent a lot of time saying “Aye, Lass,” to anything she desired. Great guy if you can get him.

In my twenties, time was taken up mostly with raising two rambunctious heroines-in-the-making. The personal computer had been invented and could be bought for roughly the equivalent of the down payment on a Hyundai Accent. However, we were purse-poor. I got a word processor instead.

My second effort at a novel was a western. Oh, God, how I loved those cowboys! This time, my hero was the one too stupid to live. He got involved in robbing a government payroll train and was the goat for the Mexican Bandits. He got caught holding the bag while they scuttled back across the border.

Hey, at least it had something resembling a plot! I still didn’t know anything about the publishing industry, though. That is, until I got a job in a bookstore. My boss was the littlest Partridge girl from, the 1970’s television show.

She put me in charge of kids books, but every free moment (and available dollar) was spent on romance novels. One quiet weekday afternoon, a lovely woman came into the store, headed straight for the romance section and began scribbling in some books. I yelled for her to stop. She smiled and said, “Honey, I’m the author. I just stopped in to autograph these for you. The autographed ones sell quicker than the ones that aren’t.”

I really didn’t hear that last part until later. I was stuck on “I’m the author”. I’d never met a real, live, romance author before. I was star struck. I shyly confessed that I wrote romance novels, and she gave me her card. On the back she wrote an address and a date. She handed it to me and told me to be there at 9:00 am.

Two weeks later, I drove ninety miles (one way) to where this group of authors met. The person who greeted me at the door was none other than Jill Marie Landis. I’d been gobbling up her books and recommending them to anyone who came into the store. And she was shaking my hand!

I joined RWA that very day and made that 180 mile round trip trek every single month for a year. Jill and I became better acquainted and I learned so much from our guest speakers. Things like Character Arcs, Point of View (and head hopping).

I even got to meet every woman’s heartthrob, Fabio. (I was surprised that he was actually a smart guy. Not dumb as a stump as I’d suspected.) And those pecs weren’t bad, either.

Sadly, just as I’d come to love the Orange County Chapter of RWA, my husband’s job uprooted us to Atlanta, GA.

I sat in my driveway and cried. We didn’t have the money for me to keep up my RWA membership. I was adrift in a strange place with no friends, no money and no connections. Then, a couple years later, I decided to visit Georgia Romance Writers. I couldn’t help myself. I told my husband we HAD to make room in the budget for me to rejoin or I was going to leave him. My threat worked.

I’ve been with GRW for 11 years now. I’ve honed my craft and feel that I’m truly 1000% better at writing than I was when I plunked down my first year’s dues.

I’m still not published, still haven’t sold a thing. But I’ve entered contests, submitted my work to agents and editors and gotten some wonderful critiques on my work.

Someday, and I believe with all my heart it will be soon, I’ll get “The Call” and I’ll be able to say I’m a PUBLISHED author.

But even if it never happens (knock wood), I’d still write. Why? Because writing is in my blood, my brain cells and my heart. These characters living in my head demand to tell their stories and I will respectfully and cheerfully submit to their will.

Who knows, maybe when I’m long dead, some descendent will find one of my mouldering old manuscripts up in the attic and decide to do something with it.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Winner for Marcia James's Blog!!

Congratulations to Lynn Raye Harris who is the winner for Marcia James's romantic suspense, At Her Command.

Of course, we're all winners if we head to Marcia's website and ask for her free author promotion options. Check it out at

Lynn, please email me with your address at

One Lovely Blog Award!!!

Last Sunday we were notified by the fabulous Jessica Lee over at the Trampy Vamps that we were the recipients of a really cool award called the One Lovely Blog Award.
THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!!!! We LOVE it and we definitely accept!
Here are the rules for this award:
1) Accept the award, and don’t forget to post a link back to the awarding person.
2) Pass the award on.
3) Notify the award winners.

So, with that in mind we've decided to nominate the following blogs;

Karen Tabke's blog
She's very conversational in her tone and runs first line contests that have gotten unpublished writers a LOT of exposure, both among their peers and with industry professionals.

Killer Fiction
Killer Fiction is just wrapping up their anniversary party and they are featuring awesome editor and agent special guests and some really cool prizes.

Hooked on Romance
These ladies do fabulous reviews and just all around fun post.

Barbara Vey
Barbara has an awesome blog covering just about EVERYTHING and she throws a seriously to-die-for party. If you haven’t attended one of Barbara’s blog parties then you are truly missing out!

They definitely deserve the recognition and we hope you all enjoy their blogs as much as we have!!!

Next Week's Lesson Plan

Is everybody ready for study hall? Here's who'll teach you a thing or two next week...

Monday, August 17: Cynthia Hamer-OmeyYou Think I Do This for the Money?
Tuesday, August 18: Maxine Davis - The ABCs of Writing (Sort of)
Wednesday, August 19: Sally Kilpatrick
Thursday, August 20: Carol Burnside
Friday, August 21: Guest Chef: Kim Castillo – Romance Author's Best Friend

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Saturday Review

Movie Review
Title: The Ugly Truth

Starring: Katherine Heigl and Gerard Butler
Director/Producer: (opt.) Columbia Pictures
Link to IMDB page (
Genre: Romantic Comedy

Hubby and I had one of those rare date nights without kids and decided to take in a movie this past weekend. We picked The Ugly Truth for the sole reason that it was rated R and looked funny. I, of course, was thrilled to see another film with Gerard Butler in it. Hubby just wanted to see something that wasn’t all lovey dovey. I’m happy to report that we both laughed our @$$E$ off. It’s more than your typical chic flick. It’s hilarious. It’s vulgar. It’s in your face funny.

In an attempt to boost ratings for their failing news show, Katherine Heigl’s boss hires Gerard Butler to give his take on the Ugly Truth about relationships. Although Heigl is the news producer, her disgust over the outrageous addition is ignored by her boss. Bound and determined to run the guy off, she’s surprised when Butler’s form of blunt and to the point advice has ratings shooting through the roof.

Now his advice is helping her land her idea of the “perfect man” and Heigl begins to realize that Butler may actually be onto something. But is his off-the-wall perspective suddenly drawing her interest or is Heigl’s idea of the “perfect man” changing?

I’ll admit up front that The Ugly Truth is getting a few controversial reviews. One reviewer even commented on the FANS and their “lack of taste.” My response is this - I didn’t go to the film to be wowed by a literary performance. I went to be entertained by crude jokes and a sexy hero and that’s exactly what I got (hence the R rating!!!). If you think that might interest you, then definitely take the time to see it. That’s my 2 cents…

Reviewer: Tami Brothers
Ratings: 5 Petit Fours and 3 Hot Tamales (spicy)

The Sicilian’s Baby Bargain

Author: Penny Jordan
Harlequin Presents
ISBN: 0373128274
Genre: Contemporary Series

Annie only wants to keep her baby safe.
With the father of Oliver dead, and her brother encouraging her to give Oliver up for adoption, Annie is more than willing to accept the safety of Falcon Leopardi’s home and name.

As the step-brother of Oliver’s father and head of the Leopardi family, Falcon feels responsible for the young woman and baby his brother has left behind. Falcon never expected to find himself attracted to the quiet English woman, and Annie is surprise by the passion that Falcon creates in her.

Want a hot, Latin lover? Falcon will meet your needs. He is a man with a strong family ties but stands out on his own.

Rating: 3 Petit Fours and 3 Hot Tamales
Reviewer: Susan May

Letters From Home
Author: Rhonda Nelson

ISBN-10: 0373794797
ISBN-13: 978-0373794799
Publisher: Harlequin Blaze
Genre: Romance

X-rated letters from home have Army Ranger, Levi McPherson, tied up in knots. The hardest part is not knowing who the author is. He has a particular person in mind, but his brother’s conservative best friend, Natalie Rowland, is most definitely off-limits and couldn’t possibly be the one. When he’s given the chance to return home for a week after his brother is hurt by a roadside bomb, he’s bound and determined to find out the woman’s identity. And when he does, he plans to act upon those highly charged sexual fantasies that have been leaving him aching in all the right spots.

Natalie has had a crush on Levi for years but never had the courage to act on them. Now that he’s fighting the war in Iraq, she realizes how very short life can be and puts her deepest fantasies in writing. When she sends them anonymously to the object of her obsession, she feels completely safe getting her feelings out like this. But what would happen if he ever found out? When her assistant accidently puts her return address label on one of the letters, Natalie knows the game is up. So when Levi returns home for a short visit and starts acting out some of those x-rated fantasies, she decides it couldn’t hurt to have a few good memories before he heads back to the front line.

Letters From Home is a fast paced story that is easy and fun to read. Rhonda Nelson made this story come alive and the characters jump right off the page. I immediately felt a kinship with them and was rooting for Levi and Natalie right from the start. Letters From Home had an exciting premise and was something I could actually see happening. Ms. Nelson also fueled my interest in Levi’s brother, Adam, and his book, The Soldier. I can’t wait to dive into this next installment in Rhonda Nelson’s “Uniformly Hot” series. I predict that both books will definitely be added to my keeper shelf.

Reviewer: Tami Brothers
Rating(s): 5 Petit Fours and 4 Hot Tamales

Friday, August 14, 2009


Petit Fours and Hot Tamales is thrilled to welcome author, Marcia James.
Marcia James writes hot, humorous romances and finaled in eleven RWA chapter contests before selling her first comic romantic suspense, At Her Command, to Cerridwen Press. In June 2009, her short story, "Rescue Me", appeared in Tails of Love, a Berkley charity anthology along with stories by nine other authors. Marcia is an advertising copywriter and marketing consultant, and she presents author promotion workshops. In her eclectic career, she has shot submarine training videos, organized celebrity-filled nonprofit events and had her wedding covered by People Magazine. After years of dealing with such sexy topics as how to safely install traffic lights, Marcia is enjoying “researching” her novels' steamy love scenes with her husband and hero of many years. She offers her 200+ page file of author promotion options to any RWAer who requests it. Just email her through the “Contact Me” page on her Web site:

Self-promotion. Say the word aloud in a room full of authors and watch a fingernails-on-the-blackboard shudder run through the crowd. I sometimes feel like a freak of nature, because I LOVE promotion. How about you? Is the idea of promoting your author brand and your books as appealing as a root canal? Answer the following multiple-choice question to get a handle on your PR feelings:

Promotion is…

A. A voracious time-suck

B. A pain in the proverbial butt

C. A scary and expensive chore

D. The source of much stress and guilt

E. All of the above.

If you answered A, B, C, D, or E, you’re in good company. But there are ways to make your promotional efforts relatively painless.

First, strive for GUILT-FREE promotion. Give yourself permission to concentrate on a few specific PR options and let the others go. No one person can take advantage of every promotional opportunity out there, even if you hire a publicist. So stop worrying about keeping up with the authors who seem to be everywhere—from reader loops and chat rooms to Twitter and podcasts.

How do you narrow down which promotional options are right for you?

1. Learn what PR options are out there, so you can make educated decisions. I have a 235-page Microsoft WORD file on PR options that I give away free to other writers. If you would like the file, go to my Web Site, to my "Contact Me" page, and request the file by emailing me that way. I'll attach the file to my response to your email.

2. Determine how much money you have to spend on promotion. You’ll hear people comment that you need to spend a certain percentage of your advance or royalties on promotion. This isn't written in stone. Only you can decide what monies you have to spend. And there are many FREE PR options available.

3. Budget your time as well as your money. Unless you can afford a publicist or an assistant, it will fall on you to do whatever it takes for your PR push. And any time you spend doing promotion is time spent away from creating those books you want to promote. So take your time constraints into consideration.

4. Take into account any limitations due to your physical location. Where you live can greatly limit opportunities for in-person promotion, such as networking, booksignings, and presenting workshops. And authors who want to promote outside of their countries have to deal with other concerns, such as customs and mailing costs. So your physical location (and travel budget) will impact your PR choices.

5. Consider the PR limitations or requirements of your specific books. For example, there are different opportunities and concerns when promoting an e-book vs. a print book. And shelf life can play a part in how you promote a category print book vs. a single title print book. Once you know what PR options are out there, you can choose which would be best for your specific books.

6. Determine what niche markets are worth targeting given your specific books. Who is your target audience? The romance-reading community is huge and voracious, but finite. If you can spot elements in your book that lend themselves to niche promoting, you can win new readers and help grow the romance market. For example, I have Chinese Crested hairless dogs in my books, and I have promoted my books on “crestie” message boards and dog-themed blogs.

7. Don't duplicate the promotional support your publisher is providing. Nothing can beat or replace publisher support, especially when it comes to distribution and brick-and-mortar bookstore placement. Some publishers' promotional teams will work with authors and some won't. Learning as much as possible about your publisher's marketing plan will help you avoid duplicating efforts. For example, ARCs (Advance Reader Copies) of your book are expensive to make, so sending ARCs to the same bookstores and reviewers your publisher does is a waste of money. And authors need to dole out their PR dollars very carefully.

8. Don't discount the role your personality will play in which PR options are best for you. Not everyone is cut out for every PR option. And your experience (or lack of experience) can be a deciding factor, too. For example, I’m technologically challenged, so I pay my Webmistress to maintain my Web site (my #1 PR tool) vs. trying to learn the skills I’d need to do it myself.

To help you determine your PR Personality, take the following quiz:


1. Do you enjoy interacting with readers? Which of the following options appeal to you?

-- Participating on a reader forum/message board, informally posting on topics as time allows.

-- "Appearing" as the guest in an online chatroom, answering reader questions for an hour.

-- Chatting up readers at booksignings—by yourself or as part of a multi-author booksigning.

-- Giving presentations to readers at libraries, bookstores and conferences.

2. Do you enjoy networking with other authors? Which of the following options appeal to you?

-- Participating on writers' email lists, sharing craft and business information as time allows.

-- Cross-promoting with other authors—linking to each other's Web sites, guest-blogging on each other's blogs, etc., as time allows.

-- Joining with other authors to create a multi-author Web site, blog or MySpace page—all of which would require a regular commitment of time.

-- Power-schmoozing with other authors at meetings and conferences.

-- Co-presenting workshops (online or in-person) and participating on panels.

3. Do you enjoy working alone to promote your books? Which of the following options appeal to you?

-- Writing articles on the craft and business of publishing for chapter newsletters, RWA's Romance Writers Report, RT Book Reviews, online e-zines, etc.

-- Building and maintaining your Web site and social media sites (e.g. MySpace).

-- Sending PR materials to conferences, bookstores and readers' groups.

-- Writing press releases, mailing out press kits and being interviewed by the media.

4. Do you factor in your strengths when deciding on which PR options to pursue?

-- Are you an introvert or extrovert? Public speaking, podcasts, and live interviews aren't for everyone. Give yourself permission not to do them if they're difficult for you.

-- Are you a computer whiz or technologically challenged? If Web design isn't your thing, budget for a Webmistress or enlist your teenagers to help you maintain your site.

-- Are there skills from your "day job" or past experience that can be useful in your promotion? Desktop publishing skills? Marketing experience? Article writing?

5. Do you prefer using tried-and-true romance author self-promotion options, or do you look for PR options that are "outside the heart-shaped box"? For example…

-- Do you pay a romance author PR site, like AuthorIsland or Writerspace, to handle your newsletter mailings, contests, chats, and other promotion?

-- Do promote your latest release or your author brand or both?

-- Do you try to "grow the market" by chatting up non-romance readers, or do you go after a piece of the voracious but finite pool of established romance readers?

-- Do you write articles for romance publications or do you look for "angles" to place an article in a mainstream magazine or association publication. E.g., if you're over 50, you could pitch an article about your second career as an author to AARP's magazine. If you graduated from college, you can pitch a story about your novels to your alumni magazine.

-- Do you look for elements within your book that could lend themselves to promotion to a niche market? There are groups/associations for everything from hobbies to sports to good causes.

-- Do you booksign at the usual venues or do you look for venues offering an interested audience (e.g., Curves women's workout centers or a tea room) or tie-ins to elements of your book (e.g., if your hero drives a vintage car, you could hand out PR items at a vintage car show; or if you write Scottish historicals, you could get a booth at a Scottish festival).

Now that you’ve taken the quiz, can you see any trends in your answers? Once you determine the best promotional options for you and your books, you can focus on those specific PR opportunities for a set amount of time each week and let go of the pressure to do more. You’ll be surprised how doing just the PR you enjoy (or tolerate) and letting go of the guilt of not doing more will take the stress off self-promotion.

For more information: I have a number of author promotion articles on my Web site, and I also present online PR workshops. My next workshop is Sept. 14 - 25, 2009: “A PR PRIMER: Promoting Yourself Before—And Just After—‘The Call’”. The Mid-Willamette Valley (OR) RWA chapter will host the workshop. Visit

I’d love to hear about your PR challenges and successes. And I’ll randomly pick one commenter to win a free download of my comic romantic suspense, At Her Command.

Happy promoting!
-- Marcia James ;-)

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Little Things

By Darcy Crowder

Often it’s the little things, those small details or quite literally those tiny treasures, that have the most impact, trigger the sharpest memory, embody the dearest sentiment. Unfortunately too many of these details or thoughtful gestures can go unnoticed. Mementos get tucked away in drawers or boxes for safekeeping and so their significance and stories dim with time.

My mother-in-law was a master of “the little things”. The first time I met her she’d invited me into her home for a nice family dinner. It was February and I’d only been dating her son a few weeks. The table was set in warm white with red accents in honor of Valentine’s Day. It wasn’t yet the 14th, but one of the first things I learned about her, and quickly came to love, was her unfailing joy at decorating her table to reflect the season or nearest holiday. And there beside my plate was my first hint of her generous personality, a delicate pewter heart-shaped frame; a small gesture of welcome that’s turned into a cherished memory. It now holds a picture of my baby daughter’s first smile. Amazingly, years later I found another identical frame to hold a picture of my son’s first smile.

It’s these tiny treasures and simple gestures that turn the everyday into the unexpected and make powerful memories.

Several years ago, not too long after my mother-in-law passed away, I wanted to give my husband something special to commemorate her life. I found myself in possession of her treasures from my husband’s childhood, and a precious few from her own. Too endearing to be stored away, I decided to make a shadow box. I used background paper in soft blues and buttery yellow, colors she loved and used often. There were pictures of her as a child, and as a young mother holding her baby son. I pinned some of her own baby items strategically alongside those of my husbands; faded satin baby slippers, a crocheted pin holder with pale pink ribbons, a teething ring, a tiny bracelet, a thin bouquet of small dried flowers that look like daisies because she loved flowers so much, even part of a letter she’d written.

You get the idea. Now every time we walked past this display we’d be reminded of her and so many of the little things that made her special to us.

So what does all this have to do with writing? Just like in real life, it’s the small details that can have the biggest impact, show us who a character is, make us care. From the clothing choices they make, to the kind of art they have hanging on their wall. But even more compelling are the things they hold dear. Whose picture do they have on the bedside table? Where did that antique locket they wear every day come from? Why do they smile every time they walk past the ceramic dog sitting by the door? What triggers their most powerful memory and why? The answers to these types of questions are what make characters come alive; relatable in their similarities, fascinating in their differences.

What about you? What mementos do you keep nearby to remind you of happy days or special people? Are you into scrapbooking or making shadowboxes? Can you think of a scene that made an impact on you because of something a character cherished?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Donger Need Food - Back to School with John Hughes

Unless you cut the mass media umbilical cord this week, you know writer/director John Hughes died. Raise your hand if the news brought a flood of images to your mind and quotes to your lips. Okay, slowly bring your hand down and pretend to brush your hair behind your ear. Otherwise, people are going to think you're a freak smelling your armpit. I know, humor and death shouldn't share a bunk-bed. But dang it, John Hughes was funny.And all about character. And honest at the core. His movies never descended into pure parody. RIP and thanks for the delight.

Who can forget in Planes Trains and Automobiles how a cash-strapped Del (John Candy) tries to score a room at the Braidwood Inn by doing the Vanna White with his Casio watch? And jeesh, I heard "Donger need food" from Sixteen Candles at least a bazillion times this weekend. They're pretty small bits, but sticky bits. Burrs. By the time you walk out of Hughes movie, you're covered in the things.

Okay, I need more burrs in my writing. I've overdosed on GMC. Plotted my pants into a wad. Fixed the POV shifts (oops, I almost typed a naughty word instead of shift). But I need more burrs. More really memorable moments. So, who better to study than Hughes. His movies seem to work mostly by flinging one after another of those prickly suckers at your socks.

I watched Sixteen Candles with an eye to how Hughes does it. To start, he uses a normal character to keep things grounded. Everybody identifies with Samantha, the nice but not va-va-voom looking girl, who wants the super-hot hunk (the premise of every romance). Her life is populated by the usual assortment of stereotypical characters -- jocks, geeks, grandparents, the foreign exchange student. Not much of a story here. Every agent in the world would pinch her nose at this one. Ready. Aim. Recycle pile.

But Hughes plays up the absurdities of his supporting cast. The jocks all look alike. The geek not only dances like a spaz, but he's so self-involved he doesn't notice when Sam ditches him. The grandmother "feels up" Sam's budding chest and the bathroom's still unusable 30 minutes after grandpa was reading in it. The foreign exchange student, who seems merely blandly strange at first, turns out to be a sex machine.

How these people inflict their weirdness on Sam is what makes the movie and its point -- a teen feels the whole world, except the guy she has a crush on, is just kind of stupid. We believe and enjoy it all because Sam is so real. Never once, even during the over-the-top party scene where the rich boy's house gets trashed, did I grumble "yeah, right."

My writing isn't comedy, but I do think there's a lesson here about not being afraid to use stereotype to advantage in building character. Heck, Jane Austen is the all-time mistress of it.

Release your inner Donger. Give him food.

So, do you have a favorite John Hughes memory?