Monday, November 30, 2009

Pay it Back by Paying It Forward

Have you received a helping hand lately? I'm not talking about somebody giving you money; although, that does count. My thoughts are headed more in the direction of someone stopping to help when you are broken down on the side of the road, a stranger's warm smile when you are having a bad day, a friend staying up all night with you to help ease your wounded heart and other things we take for granted.

Nobody has to extend an act of kindness to us. Where is it written that the people in this world are required to be nice to us? You won't find it. If you do, please let the world know so we can stop the horrific atrocities imposed on humans by other humans.

What we have here are good people who give us a little bit of themselves to make our day a little brighter, a little happier and a little easier. After all, we know life isn't easy. We all go through rough times. Some of those moments are longer than others, but we can move past them. It is always easier to move through the process when someone else appears and extends a hand.

This calls to mind the painful experience leading up to my divorce. The decision to move forward with the end of my marriage was overwhelming, and I was paralyzed. At that point in my life, I was always the people pleaser. Divorce is one of those tragedies that hurt so many people, I could not bring myself to do what I know had to be done. An unexpected friend joined me one day while I was sitting on the stairs outside my office. He gave me some advice that was the push I needed to make a final decision so I could stop dragging out the inevitable, which was only hurting those I loved. The wisdom he shared was just a phrase-one lone sentence, and it changed the course of several lives. As it turns out, those lives were all changed for the better. This friend didn't have to sit down with me. He certainly didn't have to provide a helping hand. Frankly, given the fact he was a friend of my current husband's, he probably shouldn't have gotten involved for even a moment. Once his words of wisdom were conveyed, he promptly got up, waved and headed off. We haven't spoken in years now, but I will always be grateful. He took a risk to help some friends. How many of us would have done the same? How many of us would take a little bit of risk on without expecting anything in return?

Once my decision was made to go through with the divorce, I was amazed at how many people stepped forward to spare a hug and give me a break when I had no place else to turn. None of these kind individuals wanted anything in return. They didn't gain anything by helping me. Their acts were inspired by basic human kindness.

The fact I was in no position to help them in any way to return the favors bothered me for a long time. Then it occurred to me that the best way to honor them was to provide a helping hand and perform acts of kindness for others. None of this had to cost money, which was a good thing since I was broke at the time. It came down to paying attention to people around me and jumping in when they needed a little help. From hugging friends down on their luck, offering bits of advice or coaching them to pursue something out of the ordinary that sparked positive changes, babysitting when some friends needed to get out and have some time alone and so many other things we all tend to take for granted. The more I gave, the more pleasure I received just seeing a person smile or get back up on their feet. To this day, I continue to be on the lookout for those small, almost insignificant moments and take action to help another.

I really didn't have a name for these general acts of kindness until I saw the movie PAY IT FORWARD. If you haven't seen this movie, I encourage you to take the time to watch it. Be sure you have a box of tissues nearby. The emotion in this movie builds and the climax in the end will make the tears flow when you witness the powerful impact one child had on the world around him and what he had to face. All to pay it forward.

If you have ever received an act of kindness, think about paying it forward. One thoughtful gesture can make a powerful impact on someone's life. You may never see it, but know that it happens. So always be on the lookout for those little opportunities to pay it forward. Do any of you have any experiences you'd like to share about acts of kindness and paying it forward? Please share them with us. You story may spark actions in others or give someone another idea on how to pay it forward.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Look Back with Us

Where did the time go? Can you believe in another month it will be 2010? Join us next week as we wrap up November and look back at '09.

Monday, November 30: Tammy Schubert – Pay it Forward, Pay it Back
Tuesday, December 1: Ana AragonMy best Christmas present ever
Wednesday, December 2: Cinthia Hamer-Omey - Looking Backward...Looking Inward
Thursday, December 3: – Sally Kilpatrick -
Friday, December 4: Guest Chef: La-Tessa Montgomery

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Saturday Review

*** Note: May contain spoilers***
Death Angel
Linda Howard
Single Title
Ballantine Publishing
ISBN: 978-0-345-48655

A great writer can take characters with major flaws and make the reader cheer for them. That is just what Linda Howard does in Death Angel.
Drea Rousseau is the kept woman of a drug lord. When Simon ( the reader is never sure what his real name is) a hired killer, demands four hours of sex with Drea as payment for his services, the drug lord agrees. Drea is devastated to be treated as nothing. During her four hours with the killer she feels a connection to the cool, but gentle hit man. Afterwards she asks him to take her with him but he refuses. Drea knows she can no longer be the drug lord’s mistress. Not the bimbo she has made everyone believe she is, she escapes the drug lord and steals two million dollars of his money.

The drug lord wants her dead and sends Simon to do the job. Simon doesn’t know if he will actually kill Drea but he does chase her across the country. When Drea is in a serious auto accident and pronounced dead she discovers it isn’t her time. With a second chance at life, she wants to do it differently. Simon finds out she is alive and he watches over her. One night Drea catches him watching her. He goes to her house and they both realize meeting each other has changed their lives. They want a life together.

Drea also realizes that she can’t let her ex-drug lord boyfriend continue to hurt others. When she goes to the FBI to offer her help which will put her in danger, Simon refuses to let Drea do it. He kills the drug lord himself.

I’m a Linda Howard fan and therefore I enjoyed this book. These characters were not people that I would root for in my everyday life but being pulled into theirs I started to sympathize with them. I wanted them to get together and find happiness. Interesting read.

Rating: 4 Petit Fours and 4 Hot Tamales
Reviewed: By Susan May


Airs on abc:

Mondays at 10

Genre: Whodunit—think Murder She Wrote with wittier repartee, a younger cast, and sparks flying between Castle (Nathan Fillion) and Beckett (Stana Katic)

Here’s the premise: Castle is a mystery writer who is shadowing police detective Beckett in order to do research on his latest protagonist, Nicki Heat, who happens to be a female police detective. Needless to say, Beckett is less than enthused to have Castle on board, but even she isn’t immune to his boyish charm.

This show has it all: mystery, humor, and a good love/hate romance. Anyone who is familiar with Nathan Fillion’s other work (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly) will also love him here. Those who like mysteries will also like the show, although some mysteries are stronger than others. In particular, the Halloween episode is a must-see; it starts with Fillion in his old Firefly get-up and ends with him as Edgar Allan Poe. Everything in between pokes fun at Halloween conventions within the confines of an excellently crafted story.

One of my favorite parts of the show concerns the relationship between Castle, his daughter, and his mother. They all live together, and the daughter is clearly the “parent” of them all even if she does occasionally indulge in a little laser tag with dear old dad. Other members of the supporting cast are equally strong, and occasionally you might even glimpse a cameo of some of America’s greatest mystery writers in one of Castle’s poker games.

Reviewer: Sally Kilpatrick
Petit Fours: a solid 5/Hot Tamales: 3

Friday, November 27, 2009

Adventures in Shopping

Today is Black Friday, the biggest shopping day of the year. This day kicks off the traditional holiday shopping season, and the quest for perfect gifts for those special people in our lives.

Kids run around in excitement. Holiday music and decorations create a festive atmosphere. The happy holiday season kicks into high gear. Sales abound, and everyone knows the best deals are found during the early morning hours. Through all of this shoppers must deal with long lines, crowds of people – some pushy and rude while others deliver basic, free gifts through their acts of kindness.

Can you feel the increasing stress level? Doesn't this make online shopping much more appealing?

We have all heard news stories related to adventures in shopping:

  • People trampled to death
  • Fights over parking spaces, toys, etc.
  • Acts of good will and charity
  • Secret Santa's spreading a bit of cheer

What kind of shopping stories do you have to share? Are they funny, sad, adventurous, or full of action or a touching incident? Please share your experiences with us.

Happy shopping!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving !!!

I know everyone is busy cooking and entertaining…probably trying a couple of Carol’s yummy recipes from yesterday, but if you’ve taken a few moments out of your busy day, I thought today would be a great day to share how different families celebrate this special day.

Below is a story submitted by Maxine (Brenda) Davis. Enjoy.

What are you doing for Thanksgiving this year? Don’t you love it when you’re talking to friends about the holidays? “What do y’all do for Thanksgiving?” is often heard. It’s fun to hear who’s cooking, who’s coming, who’s going and who is frantic about preparing dinner for the first time.

Well, for over 20 years my family has gone to a big hotel in Marietta. No one cooks and no one cleans up. We all dress in our finest, relax and enjoy the family and a fabulous meal. We are always in a private room ‘off to the side’ of the dining room and don’t worry about disturbing others as we visit and eat.

Turkey and dressing? Oh yes, and vegetables, and shrimp and prime rib and every kind of dessert imaginable. We all visit the buffet, well, let’s just say, more than once.

What started it? When my parents’ health got bad, Mother couldn’t cook and even though we brought in a lot of food, the big crowd made Daddy nervous in their small house. He suggested the entire family going out. We have ever since.

That was a wonderful decision! It was very hard the first year after Dad died and years later, again after Mom. But my brother, sister and I all knew how much they enjoyed this holiday with family. It is something we treasure and celebrate.

About noon, we’ll all head to the restaurant. We’ll talk about how much the kids have grown, how handsome everyone looks and ask one of the waiters to make a family picture. After the food, there’s just the football and nap that’s left.

Enjoy your holiday, be thankful, celebrate family and think of me, not washing the first dish.

Sandy's Thanksgiving Plans

This year we have our youngest daughter and her family driving down from Virginia and our son and his wife driving down from North Carolina. I started cooking yesterday…at least the molded salads, cookies for snacking and the pumpkin pie.

I’ve written out a list of what we’ll be eating…to assure I don’t forget anything, and to remind me this morning just what I have to do to put a huge banquet on the table promptly at 2 o’clock.

Traditionally our day starts with the parade…while the turkey is roasting…and then the dog show. We love seeing all the breeds even though we no longer have a dog. Mainly because Jack the Cat wouldn’t like it and after all, he was here first and owns the house.

After the big meal, we’ll head out for a walk around the neighborhood…during a break on the sports channel…and then we’ll be back at it again in the evening for thick turkey sandwiches on white bread with mayo and cranberry sauce. Oh yeah, now that’s eating.

Our menu for this year is:Ham, Turkey and stuffing, cranberry sauce…jelly type, mashed potatoes and gravy, sweet potato casserole w/marshmallows, deviled eggs, fresh green beans w/crumbled bacon, cranberry Jell-O molded salad, a lime Jell-O molded salad w/ pineapple and hot rolls w/ butter. Then pumpkin pie and/or pecan pie with cool whip or vanilla ice cream.

I fully expect my husband to fall asleep in the recliner and for the “kids” to beat us at Wii.

To sum it up, Thanksgiving is a time to spend with family and friends sharing a good time and making memories. May each of you have a Thanksgiving to remember and please say a prayer for Mercer Crook, CiCi and the entire Crook family.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Talking Turkey and gravy and…

By Carol Burnside

Ever wish you could cook an old-fashioned Thanksgiving Day dinner, but don’t know how? Well, here’s the scoop!

Never cooked a turkey? No problem. Log onto and check out their ‘tips and how-tos’ section. They’ve got everything there you could possibly want to know about turkeys and cooking turkeys including temperatures and times for different weights. NOTE: If you’re running to the store today, buy a FRESH turkey, not frozen to prepare for tomorrow.

Now that the turkey is covered, you’ll need some gravy to go with it. At our house, the bird was always accompanied by mashed potatoes with giblet gravy. My granny believed strongly in the ‘waste not, want not’ philosophy, and with four kids to feed, my mother followed her example. This recipe reflects that philosophy.

Giblet Gravy
3-4 cans chicken broth
Packet of giblets from turkey (heart, gizzard, neck and liver)
2 eggs, boiled, peeled and chopped into 1/4” pieces
½ cup chopped onion
1 can Campbell’s Healthy Request Cream of Chicken Soup
Poultry seasoning
Rubbed sage
Salt and pepper to taste

Put eggs on to boil in small saucepan. Next, empty chicken broth into a large (3-4 qt) pot, and bring to boil. Remove giblets from packet and add to boiling broth along with onions. Simmer about 5-10 min. until done. Remove from heat. Keep broth in pot, but remove giblets to a small bowl to cool.

Chop giblets organs when cool. Remove skin from neck and discard. With small knife, cut the meat from the neck bones and add to chopped organs. Return to broth and bring back to boil. Add eggs. Stir in soup with a whisk. Add poultry seasoning, sage, salt and pepper to taste. (Easy on the sage! A tiny amount goes a long way. )

If gravy is too thin, thicken with a Tbsp. or so of cornstarch dissolved in a ¼ cup of milk, repeat until it reaches desired consistency, giving it about 2 minutes between batches to thicken.

Mashed potatoes are easy. Fill a med to lg pot about ½ full of water. Put on stove to boil. Peel and cube potatoes (1 lb for every 2-3 people). Add to boiling water. When potatoes are fork tender, drain water off. Transfer to a large mixing bowl, add butter or margarine and milk or cream. I like my potatoes creamy and light, so I use an electric mixer. Start on low and increase speed as the potatoes begin to puree. End by whipping for a couple minutes or until all lumps are gone. Add salt and pepper. Stir and serve. If you don’t want to make from scratch, there are really tasty prepared mashed potatoes and believe it or not, instant. Both are fast and easy.

Cranberry Sauce can be bought pre-prepared. Just chill and slice. Heat and butter purchased rolls, prepare a green vegetable and a dessert, and you’ve got a fabulous first-time Thanksgiving Dinner!

Still feeling confident? Okay, then let’s go whole-hog and do a Sweet Potato Delight. Ingredients:
3 cups sweet potatoes, cooled, peeled and mashed, 1 cup sugar, 2 eggs, 1 Tbsp. vanilla, 2/3 cup butter or margarine, 1/2 cup milk

And for the topping (delight):
1/3 cup flour, 1/3 cup butter or margarine, 1 cup brown sugar, 1 cup chopped pecans

Mix sweet potatoes, sugar, eggs, vanilla, milk & 2/3 C butter. Pour in greased casserole dish.
Mix topping ingredients in small bowl. Pour or dot over sweet potato mixture. Do not mix in.
Bake at 350 degrees F for 30 min. Top will be crunchy.

Note: My family requests I add marshmallows to the top and brown for 5 min., but be warned, this makes it extra sweet! Enjoy.

What? You want a dessert recipe too? Okay, okay, but I must say, you must be awfully hungry. Let’s go with something that’s easy – a pie. Trust me, it’s mix and bake.

I’m from the South and there’s nothing more fitting at the Thanksgiving table than a…
Southern (Molasses) Pecan Pie.
3 eggs, slightly beaten
¾ c. Dark Karo syrup or molasses
¾ c. light corn syrup
2 Tbsp. butter or marg. Melted
1/8 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
3 Tbsp. flour
1 cup pecans
1 unbaked deep-dish pastry shell

Combine eggs, molasses, corn syrup, melted butter salt and vanilla in mixing bowl. Make a paste of a ¼ cup mixture and flour; stir into remaining mixture. Add pecans. Pour into unbaked pastry shell and back at 325 degrees F. for 1 hour or until firm in middle. Cover edges of pie crust with thin strips of foil until the last 15 minutes so it won’t burn. Let cool some before serving.

Veggie tip from Susan May: An easy dish that’s very popular is the Green Bean Casserole. The recipe can be found on the back of any Durkee French Fried Onions can. If that doesn’t suit you, here’s another:

MAXINE’S GREEN BEAN RECIPE Buy the canned green beans (Kentucky Wonder or Pole beans).
DRAIN the water.
Pour beans in pan, add water to cover
Pour in some oil
Add a vegetable bouillon cube (I use 1/2 of a Knorr lg. cube)
Salt and either Herb de Provence, or, my favorite, Cracker Boy Seasoning (buy online) and sprinkle that on top.
Bring to boil
Stir once
Turn down temp, cover and cook "a little while."

There you have it, a Thanksgiving feast to please any family.

We at Petit Fours & Hot Tamales wish you and yours a pleasant Thanksgiving Day with your loved ones. Bon appétit!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Thanksgiving Reviews

Title: Book - - Skipping Christmas by John Grisham – and –
Movie - - Christmas with the Kranks

Publisher: Doubleday
Film Company: Resolutions Studios
ISBN: 0-385-50841-7
Rating: PG

Luther Krank is fed up with all the hoopla of Christmas. He’s tired of the corny office parties, the cold weather, the decorations that would only stay up for a few weeks, and most of all the money they spend on frivolous things. With his only daughter away for Christmas, all he wants to do is get away from it all. A nice relaxing week on a Caribbean cruise will be just the thing to take his mind off of the holidays. He thought the hardest part was going to be convincing his wife this was a good idea. Little did he know that Skipping Christmas was not going to be an easy task, especially if their neighbors have anything to say about it.

Their neighbors have decided the Kranks lack of interest in the holiday is just plain selfish. They begin a campaign to get the couple back into the Christmas spirit. Whether they like it or not. When Luther is just hours away from winning, he’s thrown for a loop when his daughter decides she’s returning for a visit with her new fiancé. Now the Kranks must rely on the very people they have alienated the last month to help them bring the holiday spirit home. Not only do they learn the true meaning of Christmas, but they also learn the true meaning of friendship.

Skipping Christmas is my all time favorite holiday book and one I read every year. John Grisham allows the reader to feel the haunting loss of a family member during one of the most important holidays of the year, while tickling the reader’s funny bone with slapstick pranks pulled by both Luther and his neighbors. The battle over raising Frosty took on a life of its own. Since the release of the movie, Christmas with the Kranks, I’ve added watching it with my family as a new tradition. With Tim Allen playing Luther Krank, it has quickly become a favorite for the rest of my family, too. Allen’s quirky humor definitely makes this movie one you don’t want to miss.

The book and the movie bring different experiences to the story, so definitely check them both out. I think you will find them BOTH irresistible.

Reviewer: Tami Brothers
Rating(s): 5 Petit Fours, 1 Hot Tamale (tame but some sexual tension)

Film: THE HOLIDAY (2006)
Starring: Cameron Diaz, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, Jack Black

Writer/Director: Nancy Meyer
Link to IMDB page (
Genre: Romantic comedy

SUMMARY: Two women troubled with guy-problems swap homes in each other's countries, where they each meet a local guy and fall in love.--IMDb
I’ve watched this movie twice already and plan to see it again this holiday season. It is fast becoming a favorite. If you like holiday settings, character growth, a great story, romance or light comedy, you’ll like this movie. It has all of them. And if you’re sentimental, like me, you’ll find yourself getting misty-eyed in places. Definitely a heart-warming, feel-good movie.

Reviewed by: Carol Burnside
Ratings: Petit Fours: Recommended View! I love it. Hot Tamales: 2.5

Emotional Structure by Peter Dunne

Publisher: Linden Publishing
ISBN-13: 978-1884956539

For those of us who have trouble with middles, for those of us who struggle with internal conflict, for those of us who want to give our manuscripts more impact, Peter Dunne's Emotional Structure is the book to read.
Blog sister Tammy Schubert recommended it to me a few months ago, and I've been thanking her ever since. This book is so chock-full of gems and secrets, I almost don't know where to begin.

Emotional Structure: Creating the Story Behind the Plot is labeled "A Guide for Screenwriters," but it's just as valuable for novelists, as well. Dunne's premise is that the emotion is in your story, not your plot. And, though both are necessary, story is much more important than plot. Dunne contends that there is just as much structure to the inner journey your protagonist takes (the story), as her outer journey (the plot). He believes the outer should flow from the inner, not the other way around. Especially in the middle.

"The only way to look at the second act is in terms of its emotional content," he says. "The middle of the script is the movie." Or if you're a novelist, the middle of the novel is the book. "If you aren't dealing with the emotional undercurrent of the characters' relationships in Act Two, then you aren't writing the movie. You're doing something else. Usually something bad."
Dunne helps the writer think through her character's emotional journey, make sense of it, and find her own emotional truth. "No plot, no matter how clever, is worth anything if it doesn't ultimately connect your truth to mine."

I'm only halfway through Emotional Structure, but already I can see an improvement in my writing. Dunne's book is inspiring and motivating. It makes me want to write and write well. It's definitely a must have for the professional writer.

Rating: 5 Petit Fours and 0 Hot Tamales
Reviewed by: Linsey Lanier

Suzanne Brockman's Troubleshooter Series

Brockman's Troubleshooter Series

Publisher: Ballantine Books
Available in print and for the Kindle on

Genre: Contemporary/Romantic Suspense
Reviewer’s Name: Tammy Schubert
Rating(s): 4 Petit Fours, 2 hot tamales

The Troubleshooter Series begins with Navy SEAL Lt. Tom Paoletti's, return home to recover from a head injury sustained on a mission. His action-packed love story lays the foundation for the rest of the series by introducing his love interest and the initial supporting cast of characters that readers follow through the series. Starting with the second book, the reader follows SEAL Team 16 as the men live, love, train and fight terrorists. Each book centers on a couple's love story with other complimenting, supporting, interwoven plot lines. Beloved characters reappear in books that follow, and not all of the troubles faced by various characters are resolved at the end of each book. These issues carry over to the next story, which enriches the series and character development.

Later the reader finds that Tom leaves the Navy and opens his own security firm, Troubleshooters, Inc. He employs members of his former SEAL team, some who left the Navy and those who remain but look for side work during down time. Troubleshooters handles government contracts, which mean select security missions involve the sexy heroes of SEAL Team 16.

Suzanne Brockman has an amazing talent for character development and weaving together multiple plot lines seamlessly. A reader cannot help but bond with her characters. So pick up copies of the Troubleshooter Series books, find a cozy place to cuddle up and experience the lives of Troubleshooters.

Troubleshooter Series Book List

Amazon's Troubleshooter Series easy access list:

1. THE UNSUNG HERO June 2000, ISBN-10: 080411952X
2. THE DEFIANT HERO March 2001, ISBN-10: 0804119538
3. OVER THE EDGE September 2001, ISBN-10: 0804119708 – My favorite
4. OUT OF CONTROL March 2002, ISBN-10: 0804119716
5. INTO THE NIGHT December 2002, ISBN-10: 0804119716
6. GONE TOO FAR July 2003, ISBN-10: 0345456939
7. FLASHPOINT March 2004, ISBN-10: 0345456947
8. HOT TARGET December 2004, ISBN-10: 0345456955
9. BREAKING POINT July 2005, ISBN-10: 0345480139
10. INTO THE STORM August 2006, ISBN-10: 0345480139
11. FORCE OF NATURE August 2007, ISBN-10: 0345480171
12. ALL THROUGH THE NIGHT October 2007, ISBN-10: 0345501527 – Another favorite
13. INTO THE FIRE July 2008, ISBN-10: 0345501527
14. DARK OF NIGHT January 2009, ISBN-10: 034550156X
15. HOT PURSUIT July 2009, ISBN-10: 0755355539

FREE From Suzanne's Web Site

Sam & Alyssa – Short Story 2:

Readers Guide to the Troubleshooter series:
For more book and movie reviews from Petit Fours and Hot Tamales, check out the following links:

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Thanks for stopping by! Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Gift List for Writers and Readers

Christmas is coming and the holiday shopping season is here. When preparing your shopping gift list, it is often difficult to find just the right present for your special writer or reader.

The ladies of Petit Fours and Hot Tamales have put together lists of suggestions that cover all price ranges. With a little investigating you can pull together thoughtful gifts your special someone appreciates.

Gift List for Writers

  • Small table-top water fountain
  • Special pen for autographing books (for a published author)
  • Special stickers for authors – "Autographed by Author"
    Authors use them to stick on the front cover of books they autograph.
  • Scented candles
  • Tray for across the tub, bubble bath and champagne/wine
  • Memory stick/Jump Drive
    Memory is getting cheaper, so check out the ones that hold gigabytes of information.
  • External hard drive for backing up files
  • Kindle or Sony E-Book Reader
    Do your homework on this gift. Each reader has proprietary data security. This means books can only be collected from specific places or in specific formats. If your special person is a Road Warrior this is an excellent gift choice.
  • Digital recorder for making notes on the fly
  • Netbooks and laptops
  • AlphaSmart NEO -
    If you are checking out the high-end version, the Dana, consider a NetBook instead.
  • iPods, Nanos or other MP3 music devices
  • Egg timer
  • Two-year organizer/calendar
    Be careful, not everyone is a tech nut so don’t rush out and buy a PDA when an old fashioned calendar will do.
  • Starbucks, Amazon, iTunes and other interesting gift cards
  • Briefcase/laptop bag
  • IKEA office furniture
  • Clear a space in the house for your writer's private writing area
  • Do Not Disturb sign for the door
  • Special coffee/tea along with a cool mug
  • Electronic warmer for the cool coffee/tea mug
  • Nonni biscotti, cookies or special chocolate treats
  • Registration for a writer's conference – a fabulous option is Moonlight & Magnolias
  • Continuing education courses
  • Subscriptions to Writer's Digest, Romantic Times (for romance writers), or other magazines specific to the genre your writer is interested.
  • Shirt box full of pens, post-its, notepads, mechanical pencils, highlighters, etc.
  • Office Supplies: printer paper, printer cartridges, notebooks etc. A gift card to the supply store may actually be a better option
  • Gift certificate to a craft store like Michaels, assuming your writer is into collaging or other art forms to stimulate creativity
  • Coupon vouchers for babysitting, cleaning, spa day, massage, etc.
  • Writer's Resource Books
  • Membership to a Writers' Group
    Romance Writers of America (RWA) and a Regional Chapter or Specialty Group (see RWA's Web site), Georgia Romance Writers, Georgia Writers, Sisters in Crime, etc.
  • Entrance to an Authors' Luncheon hosted by a local writing chapter
  • Gift card and/or assistance with the creation/support of the writer's Web site
  • Book light for reading at night
  • Variety of bookmarks
  • One of those microwavable neck massage/warmers(wrap around neck & shoulders), some come herbal scented
  • Book covers for privacy while reading in public
  • Snuggie versus Slanket (see the note in the Gift List for Readers)

Gift List for Readers

  • Book light for reading at night
  • Special coffee/tea along with a cool mug
  • Electronic warmer for the cool coffee/tea mug
  • Nonni biscotti, cookies or special chocolate treats
  • Snuggie or cashmere throw your writer/reader can cuddle under while reading
    According to the reviews on, check out the Slanket instead. The difference is in the quality of the fabrice according to a reviewer who appears to know her stuff.
    Do your research before you buy!
  • Small table-top water fountain
  • Scented candles
  • Kindle or Sony E-Book Reader
    Do your homework on this gift. Each reader has proprietary data security. This means books can only be collected from specific places or in specific formats. If your special person is a Road Warrior this is an excellent gift choice.
  • iPods, Nanos or other MP3 music devices
  • Starbucks, Amazon, iTunes and other interesting gift cards
  • Basket full of books
    Be careful. Your reader already has a lot of books.
  • Book light for reading at night
  • Tray for across the tub, bubble bath, bath gels and champagne/wine
  • Variety of bookmarks
  • Entrance to an Authors' Luncheon hosted by a local writing chapter
  • Get a signed book from a favorite author
    Coordinate this in advance. Many authors will sign a book that they receive from you. You must pay for shipping both ways and supply the packing materials. Do not put a burden on the author. You may want to reconsider this idea if the author is from a foreign country. Shipping is expensive and a big hassle for both parties.
    If a favorite author is local, coordinate a luncheon for your read and his/her friends with this author. Supply a gift certificate to cover restaurant expenses. Ask the author about her fee. Sometimes a small gift is the only thing you need. Book covers for privacy while reading in public
  • Coupon vouchers for babysitting, cleaning, spa day, massage, etc.
  • Microwavable neck massage/warmers(wrap around neck & shoulders), some come herbal scented

Other Resources for Gift Ideas

If you can think of some other ideas, please post them in the Comments section. We would love to hear about them.

Happy Holidays!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

With Heart and Hand and Voices

Happy Thanksgiving to all from Petit Fours and Hot Tamales!

Hope you'll find a few spare moments between shopping, cooking, and entertaining guests and relatives to chat with us about your holiday.

Monday, November 23: Gift Ideas for Writers & Readers
Tuesday, November 24: Book Reviews
Wednesday, November 25: Carol's Thanksgiving Recipes - Talking turkey and gravy and...
Thursday, November 26: Sandy and friends - Thanksgiving Family Stories
Friday, November 27: Adventures in Shopping

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Saturday Review

The Girl on Legare Street

By Karen White

Publisher: NAL Trade
Genre: Woman’s Fiction with Paranormal elements

ISBN-13: 978-0451227997

Melanie Middleton is an old pro at renovating historic houses, but never imagined she’d have to renovate her own life to make room for her estranged mother. Though Ginnette Prioleau Middleton deserted Melanie thirty years ago, she has suddenly returned to Charleston to protect her, claiming she’s received a deadly premonition.

Melanie never wanted to see her mother again, but with some prodding from local author Jack Trenholm, she reluctantly agrees – and begins to rebuild their relationship. Together, Melanie and her mother buy back their family home. with their combined psychic abilities they expect to unearth some ghosts. But what they find is a dark spirit whose strength has been growing for decades – and who is ready for revenge. With the help of Jack, whom she’s grown closer to than ever, and her mother, Melanie fights to destroy this malevolent presence and save what’s left of her family…

Karen White doesn’t disappoint. The Girl on Legare Street is the long-awaited sequel to The House on Tradd Street, and book two of her four book Tradd Street series. You don’t have to read The House on Tradd Street to follow this story, but if you haven’t read it yet, you’ll want to go back and pick it up after reading The Girl on Legare Street. Count on it. Karen weaves another unforgettable story of check-under-the-bed, sleep-with-the-light-on paranormal intensity set amid the rich history of Charleston, South Carolina. Sprinkle in a good helping of dysfunctional family drama and a dash of romance and I guarantee you’ll be up all night!

Rating: 5 Petit Fours and 2 Hot Tamales

Reviewed by: Darcy Crowder

A Forever Christmas

By Missy Tippens

Publisher: Steeple Hill Love Inspired
Genre: Inspirational Romance
ISBN-13: 978-0373875641

Devastated by the loss of her favorite student to cancer, kindergarten teacher Sarah Radcliffe returns to her hometown of Magnolia, Georgia, to spend the holidays with her parents and try to ease the pain of this recent loss. When Sarah arrives in Magnolia, she finds her friend Donna Rae in the last stages of her pregnancy and directing the children’s Christmas play at church. After receiving doctor’s orders to stay on best rest for the duration of her pregnancy, Donna Rae pleads for Sarah to take over the director position. Even though Sarah does not want to be around children so soon after young Peter’s death, she reluctantly agrees. From the first time Sarah met the children in the play, one little boy stands out. Well, he stands in the back of the group and rarely says a word, but his quietness speaks to Sarah. His name is Hunter Jones, and he is the oldest son of Gregory Jones, Sarah’s high school sweetheart. The boy who broke her heart into a million pieces.

Gregory Jones is living a very hectic life. After his ex-wife walked out on him and their two small boys a few years ago, Gregory has been mother, father, provider, and so much more. Owning his own business, Gregory is putting in a lot of extra hours to buy the gifts his boys want most for Christmas and hoping that will make up for a mother they never see. As he rushes into the church building to pick up Hunter and Chase from the Christmas play practice, Gregory never expected to run smack dab into Sarah Radcliffe. It has been at least a decade since Gregory had been this close to Sarah, and she is more beautiful than he remembered.

Forced to spend a significant amount of time with Gregory’s boys because of the Christmas play, Sarah heart quickly belongs to these two little boys and she realizes Gregory is working himself to the bone to provide toys for Christmas when all that Hunter and Chase want is to spend time with their father. Sarah soon comes up with several fun activities for the Jones family to do together, such as decorate the Christmas tree and deliver cookies to several homebound individuals. When Gregory finds the boys’ letter to Santa, which reads “Dear Santa, For Hunter – a whole day playing outside with Dad by myself. For Chase – to sleep in Dad’s bed for a week. For both of us – Miss Sarah as our mom.”, he realizes his boys just want him for Christmas, and a new mom too! But Gregory is not sure that he and Sarah can forgive each other for the transgressions of the past.

This is such a sweet Christmas love story. Personally, I have always loved stories where former loves are reunited, and when Christmas is involves it makes it extra special. This is a wonderful story of young love remembered, forgiveness, and not only loving another person but loving an entire family. I really enjoyed seeing Sarah show Gregory that spending time with family is the most important thing. Like most other people, I live a very busy life, but the message of this book spoke loud and clear to me. Spend more time with the people you love! So my family and I have started back on family game night and movie marathon night. Thank you, Missy, for reminding me what is most important!!

Rating: 5 Petit Fours and 1 Hot Tamale
Reviewed by~ Buffie/ The Romance Dish

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Prayer of the Newly Published Author

Prayer of the Newly Published Author

Dear God,
In the last year I’ve “come out of the closet” and admitted I am an erotic romance writer, sold my first book, celebrated my ninth wedding anniversary (my longest relationship outside of…well…You…), received my first book review and have been told my characters suck. Whew! It’s been one heck of a year and all I can say is…Thank you!

Thank You, God, that when I finally gathered my courage and revealed to my father—the pastor—that I write erotic romance he didn’t disown me…or place my name on the permanent prayer list. You know the list, God. The one with the names of people who only show up for church on Easter Sunday and Mother’s Day? Although, when he proceeded to instruct me on the correct way to pen a love scene, including engaging the senses of scent, touch, sound, sight–Well, I would have rather never had to experience that conversation with him, but I’m thankful to You for his acceptance and pride in me.

God, I thank You for my husband. While he harbors no problem with his wife being an erotic romance writer (Hee! Hee! Hee!), he has supported and fostered a dream that originated during our second year of marriage. And not once has he ever told me to let it go. Never has he instructed me to be “realistic” and move on. Sometimes he believed when mine wavered. I thank You, God, for my husband’s sacrifice, his heart, his faith and strength.

And, God, I thank You for loving me. Thank you for reaching out into the great space of Hope, wrapping Your hand of Faith around my dream and bringing it to fruition. Your Word says You aren’t a respecter of persons, and yet, You chose me. That floors me, God…it humbles me. And, so at this time of Thanksgiving—at this time of family, reflection and harvest, I say thank you for the family that supports and loves me, for knowing that all of this has nothing to do with me and everything to do with You, and for the bountiful harvest of dreams and hopes that I continue to reap.

Thank You, Father, for being You.

Naima Simone, an active member of RWA’s Southern Magic Chapter, has been an avid reader all her life. When she finally decided to drag her manuscripts from under her mattress and seriously pursue a career in writing, she discovered she had a lot to learn. Through the mentoring of fellow authors—published and unpublished—her first erotic romantic suspense with Ellora’s Cave Publishing, “Sweet Ultimatum” was released on October 23, 2009. Come visit her at!

Guest blogger, Nicole North

10 Things I'm Thankful For
By Nicole North

First of all, a huge thanks to the ladies of PF&HT for having me here today! Thanksgiving is coming up soon, and it's important to recount the things we are thankful for... if possible, not once a year, but every day. I have many things to be grateful for in my life, but today I want to concentrate on writing related things. In no particular order...

1. I'm thankful for my own hero, my encouraging, supportive husband. He always believed I could become a published author, even during times when I doubted myself. He enjoys reading the good reviews of my books almost as much as I do. :) He's the best--generous, caring, lovable, sexy, and sweet.

2. I'm thankful to Red Sage for giving me an opportunity and publishing my first novella, Devil in a Kilt (in Secrets Volume 27), and my next two novellas, Kilted Lover and Beast in a Kilt. This was a great kickoff for my publishing career. I've loved reading Secrets anthologies for years. They contain the level of hot sensuality I love in my romance reading. Red Sage has been around for over fifteen years and continues to grow and expand.

3. I'm thankful for my awesome critique group, Rebels, and my other individual critique partners because they are also my friends. In addition to critiquing, we share the ups and downs of writing. We encourage and support each other and are each other's biggest fans. Sometimes my critique partners have saved my sanity, like when I've had to rewrite a scene from scratch and needed help figuring out the best solutions.

4. I'm thankful for my laptop so I'm not stuck writing at a desk all day. I can write in a comfy recliner, while walking on a treadmill or outside if I choose. This is important because my desk chair isn't so great to sit in for hours and hours. And I find I can write more creatively if I'm comfortable or walking.

5. I'm thankful for fun research methods, one of which is the internet because it makes research so much easier and faster. Before I discovered the wealth of information online, I spent hours in libraries spinning my wheels. But the most amazing and fun way to do research is in person, visiting the places I write about and touching the things in my stories. Attending Highland Games and watching the caber toss is one way that I researched before writing Kilted Lover, since the story starts at such an event and the hero tosses cabers as a hobby.

6. I'm thankful for the wonderful writers who take my workshops and make teaching both fun and rewarding for me. I never knew I could teach until I jumped in with both feet and gave it a try. Turn Up the Heat! was the first workshop I taught. It was an experiment that turned out well. Imagine my shock when some of my students told me I explained certain hard to grasp concepts in a way that gave them new insights into their writing, and truly helped them improve. Helping people in this way is very rewarding for me.

7. I'm thankful when unexpected inspiration hits me and doesn't allow me to do anything but write. Ahh to feel this way all the time would be bliss, but of course that doesn't happen. But I'm also happy when I can read a page or two of what I've written, then easily sink back into the story. Even if it isn't a blinding flash of inspiration, I can still draw on the moderate hum of inspiration and finish the story.

8. I'm thankful for my three online chapters: Celtic Hearts, From the Heart, and Hearts Through History. Since I live far from any land based chapters, connecting to other romance writers online is wonderful. Writing is mostly a solitary pursuit so it's great to be a part of a friendly writing community. Dozens upon dozens of members of these chapters are incredibly supportive and encouraging.

9. I'm thankful for the sexy, delicious cover of Kilted Lover, designed by Rae Monet. It's eye candy, pure and simple! I never get tired of looking at it. Rae captured perfectly the yummy hero of my story.

10. I'm thankful for readers who buy my books, then email me to let me know they've read them. What a blast it is to entertain people, make them laugh or cry or affect them in other ways. Even when I was a kid I'd sometimes turn clown, just for the thrill of making people laugh. Now, at times I write humor, but more often my focus is writing hot, sexy stories with a bit of action and suspense.

Kilted Lover, my latest release, has the elements I mentioned above: sexy heat, action and a bit of humor.

When kilted caber-tosser Scott MacPherson tosses Leslie Livingston over his shoulder to rescue her from two armed thieves trying to steal her priceless amulet, they are thrust into a deadly but sexy adventure. Though Leslie already has a lukewarm, uninterested boyfriend, her attraction to Scott is white-hot and undeniable. She wants to lick this tall, muscular alpha male all over and explore the depths of eroticism with him. But will he want anything more than one night once the danger is behind them?

Prize: Name three things you are thankful for! I'll choose one winner at random from the comments to receive a pair of handmade Celtic silver and peridot earrings inspired by the amulet in Kilted Lover.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Have I Got a Girl For You!

Forget JDate,®, eHarmony or any other online dating services. We’re moving back to the old matchmaker days à la Fiddler on the Roof. I’m not talking about Yente. I’m talking about my mother, who is now trying to fix up my daughter – her granddaughter. Here’s an example of how a recent conversation went at a family birthday party.

“My son is 30 and he lives in New York.”

“So does my granddaughter.”

Another woman elbowed her way over.

“I have a granddaughter, too.”

My mother and the second woman proceeded to compare granddaughters and almost came to blows.

“Calm down,” said the Mother of the Prize (We’ll call him Steve). “Why don’t you both write down each of your granddaughters’ qualities and we’ll see who comes up with the most points.”

“Now, let me tell you about my son. My Stevie is an outfitter and a guide.”

“A spiritual guide?” my mother asked.

“No, a wilderness guide.”

“Is your granddaughter an outdoorsman?

My mother hesitated. “She’s been outdoors recently.” (She neglected to say that every time my daughter tries to do something strenuous, she trips and falls.)

She finally settled on, “She likes the outdoorsy type.”

“Where does your granddaughter live?” the Mother of the Prize asked the second woman, who answered, “Philadelphia.”

“She’s geographically undesirable,” said the Mother of the Prize, pointing to my mother before she announced, “Looks like you win.”

“Wait,” my mother cautioned. “If I’m your first cousin, then your son and I are second cousins, what does that make your son and my granddaughter?”

“Cousins three times removed.”

“Is that far enough?” my mother wondered.

“Talk about far, Philadelphia is very far removed,” quipped the second woman, who felt her lead slipping.

“I don’t think this is going to work out,” my mother said. “I think that your son and my granddaughter are related.”

Obviously that was not a match made in heaven. So I told my daughter she needed to go back on JDate.

“But everyone lies on JDate,” said my daughter.

“What do you mean, they lie?”

“Seriously. I just went out with a guy whose profile said he didn’t smoke. But whenever he talked, smoke curled out of his lungs, and when he kissed me, I almost choked on the fumes.

“That’s a deal breaker,” I agreed. “What else do they lie about?”

“Their height. I call it the JDate hair cut. You can pretty much shave two inches off the profile height of every guy on JDate. If they say they’re 6 feet tall, then they’re really 5’10.”

“What other Little White Lies do they tell?” I wondered.

“They lie about where they live. One guy put on his profile that he lives in the New York area. Turns out he actually lives in Connecticut.”

“What does this guy do for a living?”

“Well, he was going to school at George Washington University, but then he dropped out to follow his ex-girlfriend to California.”

“Stop right there. Ex-girlfriend? That’s a disaster waiting to happen.

What dating disasters have you engineered for your children? Care to share so the rest of us can avoid your mistakes? What are some Dating Game Tips?

Have you ever borrowed life experiences from your children to use in your books?

Marilyn Baron

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Independent Bookstores

I’m a fan of the independent bookstores and I’m thankful for them. I appreciate the hominess, the love and care books are shown, and the fact that the people that work in independent books stores are interested in books and their authors. I’ve yet to go into an independent bookstore that I didn’t want to visit for hours on end. I’ve been in numerous ones in the last year while out selling Nick’s New Heart. None are the same and each has a charm all their own.

One particular bookstore outside of Pittsburg has shelves twelve feet high, in a long narrow building with tables piled high with books. There was no place to sit but the owner had such a love for books he could tell you where a book was located in the chaos. He agreed to add mine to it. And I was honored to have it there.
Dog Eared Books in Madison, Georgia is the kind of bookstore where you want to have a cup of tea, settle into the plump sofa and read away a cold rainy day.

I encourage you to support the independent bookstores. They are the backbone of the book industry. Three independent bookstores go out of business each week, which is a shame. With the big, all business bottom line bookstores struggling now, I hope to see independent bookstores make a strong come back.

Authors need them because the owners love books more than a big bottom line. Visit your nearest independent book and see if I’m not right.

Monday, November 16, 2009

What's In Your Refrigerator or Do You Know What's In Your Pot Pie

By: Sandra Elzie

Do you plan menus? Each morning do you plan what you’ll have for dinner or do you “wing it” an hour before everyone arrives at the table? Or, are you like I was years ago, (I improved with age) and plan meals for a week…or, shudder,…a month in advance?

Yes, I was guilty of doing just that…but with good reason. You see, every time I went to the store, it cost at least $100…and that has only gotten worse with age. So, to solve the money issue, I tried to buy as many of the things I’d need for the month on one huge shopping day and then send hubby for milk since he has the ability to go in and buy only what he went to the store to get. (I married a talented man, don’t you think?)

So, that brings me to the shopping I’ve been doing lately knowing that all the family will be at my home for Thanksgiving. I’ve already been to the store to buy things to “stock up” since I’ll have so many for 4-5 days. Now, of course, milk and veggies will have to be last minute…I’ve already got that list for hubby hanging on the refrigerator with the magnet that says, “Lord is you won’t make me skinny, would you please make all my friends fat.” But the sad part is that I’ve already been to Wal-Mart three times. The cases of water, sodas and the boxes of fancy crackers are stocked, the menu for the week is planned, including some recipes that I’ve never tried before…(don’t you love trying new recipes when you have a house full of guinea pigs?) and my bank account has dipped by several hundred dollars, and of course, I’m not finished.

So, what’s in my fridge? EVERYTHING!! In fact, if you know anyone who wants to sell a used refrigerator for cheap, I’m your girl.

Now the fun part is what I have planned for Saturday night dinner. Pot Pie. Yes, the dreaded catch-all for the leftovers that you cover up with a nice golden crust. Ever wondered what’s in it?

Well, if you want my suggestion, just eat it, smile, and thank the cook for a lovely dinner. This is a good time to observe Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Just assume its turkey. Besides, I’m sure if the owl in the picture above were asked, I bet he’d said his dinner tasted just like chicken.

So, what’s on your menu for Thanksgiving and do you have everything yet? Oh yeah, I have a 24 pound turkey and a 22 pound spiral ham in the freezer, but we won’t go any further on the discussion of my freezer…it would need it’s own blog.

Share your menu for Thanksgiving and any Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell dishes you’ve eaten.

Oh yeah, and have a lovely Thanksgiving and enjoy the food.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Our Attitude of Gratitude

It's hard to believe we're halfway through November already. Thanksgiving is coming up fast. Be sure to join us next week for more heartfelt inspiration and fun.

And reserve some time during Turkey Week to stop by, too. We're having book reviews, recipes and all sorts of surprises.

See you all then!

Monday, November 16: Sandra ElzieWhat's On Your Menu? or Do You Know What's In Friday's Leftover Pot Pie?
Tuesday, November 17: J Perry Stone Let's Sneak a Peek at Your Innuendo
Wednesday, November 18: Marilyn BaronHave I Got a Girl for You!
Thursday, November 19: – Guest Chef: Nicole North10 Things I'm Thankful For
Friday, November 20: Guest Chef: Naima Simone

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Saturday Review


Author: Gena Showalter
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal
ISBN-13: 978-037321002

Being a teenage boy is tough enough, but being crazy on top of that is enough to get you killed. Sixteen-year old Aden Stone should know. He’s been in and out of institutions for years because of the trouble he causes. Yet no one has gotten close enough to him to find out his deepest, darkest secret. That he isn’t really crazy.

Although Aden doesn’t have any family or friends to care for him, he’s never alone. For as long as he can remember, he’s had four souls living inside his head. This would be strange enough on its own, but it’s not just the souls that make him stand out. It’s what these souls can do that has him in and out of constant trouble. ~~ One can time-travel ~~ One can raise the dead ~~ One can tell the future ~~ And one can possess another human ~~ Yowza! With this type of power harnessed into one body, it’s not a surprise that people assume he’s crazy. But there is hope on the horizon. Will Aden finally get the peace he desires? Or will he find out that peace isn’t all it’s cracked up to be?

This was a fabulous young adult story. Being a “judge a book by its cover” type of person, I was immediately hooked with the hunky male torso and mysterious purplish blue cover. Once I read the story, I was impressed with the whole package. I will admit there was a lot going on; but contrary to some reviews I read, I was easily able to follow the story line and am thoroughly excited to read the other books in the series. I immediately had an emotional connection to Aden and I’m fully invested in the new world he’s discovering. Gena Showalter did an amazing job of creating something unique, while giving us a fast paced story that demands the reader’s full attention. This book has it all; from decapitating zombies, to traveling back to his younger self, to possessing the body of a werewolf, to falling in love with a vampire princess. It all adds up to Aden being the type of person I would want on my side.

Way to go, Ms. Showalter! I can’t wait to read the next book in the series!
Rating: 5 Petit Fours and 1 Hot Tamales
Reviewed by: Tami Brothers

Madison’s Children
Author: Linda Warren
Genre: Series Romance – Home and family line
Publisher: Harlequin
ISBN-13: 978-0-373-71592-3

When Madison Belle finds a young girl, her baby brother and a pregnant teen hiding out in her barn, her nurturing and protective instincts kick into high gear. Walker is a single father struggling to hold everything together with children he barely knows.

Despite a few longish backstory dumps in the beginning, I thoroughly enjoyed this story. It’s tender and heart wrenching and has a couple twists you don’t see coming—or at least I didn’t. Character issues are realistically dealt with and the ending definitely delivers a satisfying punch.

Very enjoyable reading.

Ratings: 4.5 Petit Fours & 2 Hot Tamales
Reviewer: Carol Burnside

Friday, November 13, 2009

And now, Susan Mallery our Guest blogger

We're thrilled to have Susan Mallery in the PF&HT house today.

Susan Mallery is the New York Times bestselling author of over one hundred romances and she has yet to run out of ideas!! She has written series romances, as well as single titles, historicals, contemporaries and even a lone time travel. Always reader favorites, her books have appeared on the Waldens bestseller list, along with the USA Today bestseller list and, of course, the New York Times list. She has won awards for everything from best single title contemporary, to best Special Edition of the year and recently took home the prestigious National Reader's Choice Award. As her degree in Accounting wasn't very helpful in the writing department, Susan earned a Masters in Writing Popular Fiction.

Susan makes her home in the Pacific Northwest where, rumor has it, all that rain helps with creativity. Susan is married to a fabulous hero-like husband and has a six pound toy poodle...who is possibly the cutest dog on the planet.

Life is Good
by Susan Mallery

When I heard the November theme at Petit Fours and Hot Tamales was “What I’m Thankful For,” it brought to mind one of my core beliefs: Life is good. Sounds simple, but sometimes the simplest truths are the most profound. Because I believe that life is good, I naturally look for evidence to support my belief. In other words, I focus on everything positive in the world.

I think romance readers are fundamentally optimistic. Cynics say that happy endings are unrealistic, but we know the truth. People do fall in love. They do get married. And many of those marriages do last a lifetime, filled with love, laughter, and companionship the whole way through.

Life is good.

So, in no particular order, here are some of the many, many things I’m thankful for:

• I’m thankful for the beauty of the Great Outdoors.
• I’m thankful for the invention of windows, so I can appreciate that beauty without actually having to step outside.
• I’m thankful for my fabulous friends. Most of us are in the same business, but we are genuinely thrilled with each success the others find. We are not competitive with each other. We support each other, commiserate with each other, and make each other roar with laughter.
• I’m thankful for all the powerful technology tools at our fingertips. Online research, instant communication across continents… The world is a smaller place these days, and that’s a good thing. Plus, hello! – What’s not to like?
• I’m thankful for Holy Pink Pagoda! nail polish from OPI. Every time I catch a glimpse of my toes, I feel girlie.
• I’m thankful that Project Runway is still good now that it moved to the Lifetime Channel.
• I’m thankful for my husband and my dog. Probably in that order. Most of the time.
• I’m thankful for salty snacks, although I also curse them.
• And of course, I can’t go without saying that I’m thankful for my funny, generous, warm-hearted readers. When I announced on Facebook recently that my latest release, HOT ON HER HEELS, had hit #5 on the New York Times bestsellers list, my readers’ response moved me to tears. They were as excited as I was about achieving this new milestone in my career. They feel like family. In the best way.

Life is good. And it’s important to be an instrument of good in the world, to make life better for someone else. In the spirit of giving, I’m holding a different sort of contest on my website this month. I’ve asked my readers to perform a random act of kindness for someone and then tell me about it. I hope that reading the stories will inspire others to do something kind.

On November 28, the winner of my last contest (the Queen of the Susan Mallery Facebook Page) will select a random winner, and I’ll donate $250 to the U.S. charity of his or her choice. The stories of kindness, I hope, will come from all over the world. I hope you’ll come to my website to read the stories and be inspired, and maybe share a story of your own.

Meanwhile, post a comment here. Tell me about something unexpected and kind that someone else did for you. How did it make you feel? Did you find a way to pay it forward?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Feather Queens & Kings and Flip Flops

I can’t include a writing sample today. I’ve fallen so completely out of love with my current writing that I despise it like an ex-boyfriend. I’m sure we’ll kiss and make-up sooner or later. It just isn’t happening today. We’re still furious with each other. It’s a rejection issue.

So, let’s talk about...fads. They do tangentially tie-in to the writing remorse, but I’ll save that for last since the fads themselves are infinitely more diverting. And, to give a nod to the theme of the week, I’m thankful that I’ve never deeply engaged in any of the following fads (except I do wear flip-flops to the pool).

10 Random Fads – please post more of your own

10. Beanie Babies: Middle-aged women go berserk over bean bags. BEAN BAGS! In one way, it’s a sweet return to youth. In every other way, it’s disturbing.

9. Decoupage: You take a plaque, glue on a picture of Holly Hobby, and smother it in more glue. For a super-artsy effect, sprinkle it with glittery crystals. Warning -- Even Goodwill won’t take these anymore.

8. Atkins Diet: Let’s eat even more of what makes us fat.

7. Feather King/Queen Hair: Think Charlie’s Angels vintage Farrah Faucett. Since I have curly/fuzzy hair, this style was my holy grail in middle school.

6. Mork and Mindy Suspenders: Now only worn by clowns and elementary school assistant principals who are going for friendly but creepy look that scares kids to death.

5. Rubik’s Cube: In a moment of Alexander the Great greatness, I sliced the Gordian knot by peeling off all the stickers and sticking them back on. They are super hard to peel off and look like crapola when you put them back on. I guess there’s a lesson about cheating in that, but I’m sticking with the Gordian knot brilliance because it’s all I have. I never solved the cube the legitimate way.

4. Tongue piercing: How does that work with Popsicles?

3. Flip Flops: These are especially odious when worn by men with fungus-infested hobbit feet. Invariably, I get behind Fungi Frodo in the airport security line.

2. Twitter: Go ahead and defend it in 150 characters or less.

1. High Concept: Transformers = machines turn into different machines = crapola.

The reason I was thinking about fads is that when you fall out of love, your head turns at every dude passing by. Especially at those two feather kings in the photo. Admit it, you were checking them out. You hope one of the feather kings is your next big-haired love. You’re down in the dumps and you just want someone to reaffirm that you’re worthwhile. There’s even a technical name for it – rebound dating. He’s a fad. A diversion. His hair is a diversion in its own right.

When you hit a rough patch with your writing, it’s tempting to look at whatever is hot in the market and chase it. You think you’ll have a better chance at getting a contract. Surely everyone will love you if you write what everyone wants to read. But you have to be careful. The hot trend of today is tomorrow’s decoupage. By the time you finish the manuscript, everyone’s on to the next big thing. Yesterday’s big thing looks as dated as a leisure suit with white piping trim.

I know the standard advice is to write what you love, but with an eye to the marketplace.

But what if you don’t know what you love anymore?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Tami's Lists - What I'm Thankful For

By Tami Brothers

Okay. I admit it. I am a list maker. If you look at my desk, bulletin board, purse, books or any other place I might have slipped a piece of paper in you will see some kind of list. I have lists for just about everything; meals I want to try (most of them not so healthy), tasks I have to complete on a day by day basis, classes I still need to take if I want to keep my targeted graduation date, things I want to do before I kick the proverbial bucket, and I even have a list for the dates I placed boxes of Kleenex in certain areas of my house so I have an idea of the most frequent usage areas (I know, this one even I’m surprised by).

I sound like an over structured drill sergeant, when in reality I’m so scatter brained that if I didn’t have these lists I’d be wondering aimlessly through life not accomplishing squat. But that’s just me. Or is it? Imagine my surprise when I ran across this really cool series of books designed specifically with list makers such as myself in mind.

Talk about a neat idea. This series of books created by Lisa Nola has my name written all over them. They are books with specific topics and a question listed on each individual page. Under the questions are blank lines so the owner of the book can fill in the information. The website describes the series as follows: “listography is a personal tool for creating a database of lists, such as: things to remember, to-do's, wish lists, references, likes/dislikes, autobio lists, photo lists...”

See what I mean? This is right up my alley. But why would YOU want a whole book of just lists?

Have you thought about how telling lists are? I’ve always loved those books for grandparents and parents where they write about things they did when they were younger. It’s a neat way to live on in your own words long after you are gone. Look at the Kleenex example I listed above. Unless I tell someone about this little quirk of mine, no one will ever know. I sometimes wonder if this lunatic act is unique to me or if maybe I come by this crazy obsession genetically (knowing my family, I’m voting genetically). So really, when I’m obsessing over next year’s Kleenex budget and making a list as to how much I’m really going to need, I’m not just showing the world my psychosis. I’m sharing a small glimpse of myself with my future grandchildren (or at least helping their psychiatrist figure out why they are obsessing over Kleenex boxes ;-) ).

Staying with this month’s topic, I wanted to share a short list of some of the things I’m thankful for. After all, what would a post about lists be, without an actual list…
  • --I’m thankful for my ability to make the most of Life.
  • --I’m thankful for my health.
  • --I’m thankful for my job.
  • --I’m thankful for my family and friends (yay, Petit fours and Hot Tamales blog sisters!!!).
  • --I’m thankful for the gifts God has given me.
  • --I’m thankful for just being able to be me.

Now it’s your turn. Are you a list maker? Have you thought about the lists you would like to pass onto your descendants (thanks Elaine!!!)? Or at least their psychiatrists???

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A Special Thanks to a Special Group

Giving Thanks

Today, I give thanks for so many things. If I tried to list them all, you wouldn’t get through reading this blog until your grandchildren were old and feeble and ready for the home.

But list a few, I must.

I’m thankful for life. Never again will I wish even a second of it gone. No more thoughts of wanting the day or week or month to be over, even when they are less than perfect. No more “I can’t wait until . . .” Yes, I can. And I will savor every second until that time I’m looking forward to.

I’m thankful for God being more stubborn than I am, and not letting me get my way when it’s not in my best interest, or the best interest of my family. He’s saved me from disaster more than once.

I’m thankful for seatbelts and the infinite wisdom of those who invented them and those who fought to make it a law to wear them when riding and driving in cars.

I’m thankful for doctors and nurses and the decision they made early in their lives to go to school longer than most, suffer through sleepless nights as interns, and the dedication to their work.

I’m thankful for scientists who develop medicine and machines to help those doctors and nurses do their jobs even better.

I’m thankful for my parents who instilled in me the love of God so that I might instill that love in my own children, so that they would make the decisions they’ve made in life and would meet the people they have met.

I’m thankful I became burned out as a math teacher and left that career early. It was a wonderful job, and I’m thankful for the students I encountered, but had I not left, I would not now be on this blog.

I’m thankful for those in Hollywood who love to write screenplays for television, especially those who wrote and developed Sliders. Had they not, I wouldn’t have developed a love of writing. And again, I would not be on this blog.

I am most thankful at this moment for my wonderful blog sisters and my GRW sisters who have so graciously visited, prayed, commented, and encouraged me during the recent tragedy of dealing with my husband’s head-on collision with another vehicle.

This writing community has lifted me up and brightened my day when I didn’t feel like doing anything but crawling in a hole and moaning. If I were to become the most prolific writer in the world, I could not convey in words how much the love and support from my sister writers has meant to me.

This Thanksgiving, I will sit down at the table and give thanks for everything in my life, from the most insignificant dust bunny under the bed to the most important special angel sitting beside me – my husband.

Thank you, one and all, for your love and support. I pray for each one of you to live life and enjoy every moment. May the words of your heart and imagination flow to the page and bring you joy.

CiCi Barnes

Monday, November 9, 2009

Subtext and an invitation

By Carol Burnside

In writing, the story unfolds with the progression of scenes. We embed subtext as a means of enriching our writing, often without consciously thinking about it. But did you know there’s also subtext on this blog? Some bits of it you (our readers) can see, other bits remain behind the scenes. At this point you might wonder what the heck I’m talking about. Well, let me explain...

As with a lot of group blogs, we PFHT sisters have a loop on which we conduct business regarding the blog, vote via polls, take gentle umbrage with each other and let down our hair a little. Some of us were good friends before joining the PFHT blog. Others we’re only nodding acquaintances with.

As we get to know each other, we compartmentalize our personal lives from business less and less. Some are more cautious than others, but eventually we expose tiny bits of ourselves. I knew this would happen, even expected it. Recently I needed to reference something we talked about early on and went to the group home page to search for keywords in the messages. Even in the post titles, a story unfolded of 19 women coming together in cyber space, forming a bond which has enriched our lives.

At first the post titles contained phrases such as ‘target audience’, ‘pictures for banner’, ‘voting particulars’ , ‘name poll’, and others concerned posts and scheduling and themes. Business, business, business. Then a post appeared proclaiming, ‘Blog is Live.’ Soon after, I noticed the more personal items creeping in with ‘good news’, ‘This is not official business’, ‘Crazy, crazy day’, ‘licking my wounds’, ‘ragin’ rejection’, ‘Susan’s Nick & surgery’, ‘Susan’s update’ (lots of heartfelt messages along here as Susan’s son recovered from heart surgery), ‘I got a review – finally!’ followed by many congrats, ‘A little squee!’ and several Happy Birthday! posts. Embedded in the business of forming and running and promoting Petit Fours and Hot Tamales were tidbits of our lives. Sick kids, vacation envy, horrendous weekly schedules, and pleas for prayers. Details will remain within the private pages of our loop.

Oh, sure, there are a few tense moments (refer back to the ‘gentle umbrage’ comment) because we don’t all agree on everything, but we’re RWA chapter mates, authors banding together with a common professional goal, forming a bond, becoming friends...behind the scenes. Subtext.

While writing this, I realized the same thing is happening within the posts and comments of the blog, though it wasn’t a conscious objective. In contributing to the various topics and in the comments, we share personal tidbits about our individual love stories, our relationships with our kids and families, moments when we weren’t stellar parents or found ourselves in embarrassing situations: tiny snapshots of our lives for you to see.

We’ve noticed a lot of returning visitors in the blog statistics. When we’re really lucky, one of you comments, sharing with us a tiny snapshot of you or just letting us know we’ve struck a chord in your world. We LOVE that and wish more of you would talk with us. Sometimes we feel as if we have friends out there who are too timid to show their faces. Honestly? We won’t bite. So, as we used to say to our friends in childhood, “Come on out and play!” Show us your faces and let’s create new subtext, that of a cyber community finding common ground.