Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Fashion Flashback, The Granny Dress

Once upon a time, the "Granny Dress" was the height of fashion. That's me in 1972 looking like I am ready for an afternoon tea party with a bunch of Victorians. Granny dresses were all the rage and I loved them. Most of the time I lived in my jeans--and I still do. However, it was nice to dress up for a few hours in ruffles. Sort of like going into a time machine, but only temporarily and while still having all the modern conveniences available. (I hopped into my Chevy Nova and drove off. I would not want to deal with a horse.)

I wish I had a photo of the pink gingham granny dress I made. I sewed that dress to wear for the special party the graduating class of 1971 (of what was then Jersey City State College) had on a Circle Line cruise around New York instead of a prom. On the boat I danced to the latest rock tunes in my granny dress.

My affinity for the style is even stranger when you consider that the dress code for women was only abolished a few years earlier. Until my sophomore year in college, all women were required to wear dresses to class--every day, all the time.

Styles come and go, but it is wonderful to have the freedom to choose what you want to wear.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Old Time Music

Here's hubby entertaining at Longstreet Farm in Holmdel Park. Since the house at Longstreet is from the Victorian era, hubby plays old time songs. There's an antique piano inside and he tickles the ivories of that instrument as well. However, the accordion is his favorite. When he sits on the porch in nice weather, he attracts a lot of attention. The accordion puts out a lot of volume (without amplification) for its relatively small size. Occasionally, children and adults come up and ask him what is the name of the instrument he is playing. Some people have never heard of or seen an accordion.

The accordion is a great instrument for ethnic music. You can find a history of the accordion here. It was very popular in this country in the 1950s. (Even I took accordion lessons briefly.) When Rock and Roll took over, the guitar became the instrument most young people wanted to play.

Hubby started accordion lessons when he was seven. Later, he took up the guitar, too, briefly. But he enjoys the versatility of the accordion.

I enjoy the old time songs. They are so sweet--all about love and romance--and I can understand every word! :^) Click on the link below to listen to one that hubby plays all the time.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

What Would You Miss?

Last week, I received a contract for The Pirate's Wraith. I was thrilled! (I've mentioned the book several times on this blog, such as here, and here.)

The Pirate's Wraith is a time travel romance where a heroine from contemporary times winds up on a pirate ship in 1711. Unfortunately, she resembles the captain's dead wife and she is carrying the toy horse he carved for his son who passed away.

It was tough back in that century--no electricity and an appalling lack of knowledge when it came to disease. Despite a lack of caffeine, my heroine rises to the challenge.

So many luxuries we take for granted did not exist in the early part of the 1700s.

If you were thrown backward in time, what would you miss most of all?

Friday, April 19, 2013

Idioms...To Use or Not to Use...That is the Question

I love idioms. Our language is peppered with these colorful and pithy phrases.

One of my mother favorite phrases was, "Why buy the cow when the milk is so cheap." She often repeated it undoubtedly because she had three daughters. Mom's generation used idioms liberally to express themselves. However, people today are using those same idioms and newer ones are being added to the English language all the time.

Other languages have their own idioms. One of our neighbors was a small Mexican grandmother. What a sweetheart! She was much smaller than I, but she called me mamacita. :^)

She had a favorite phrase, "A woman's work, the donkey eats it." It made perfect sense to me.

You can find a terrific list of idioms at Idiomsite.com. There's even more at Using English.

I use idioms all the time when I talk. Who doesn't? The phrases are repeated over and over. For instance:

Did you get up on the wrong side of the bed?

He's sick as a dog.

I'm going to make a long story short.

Should a writer be liberal in her use of idioms when writing a story? Idioms are cliches--old, hackneyed phrases and many have been around for centuries.

I think it all depends on your characters. Having a character speak a few choice idioms can help round them out--for instance an older woman with three daughters to marry off might use Mom's favorite saying.

Having a character make up their own unique--and funny--idioms would add freshness to a story.

But I don't think all the characters in any one story should be spouting off idiom after idiom. I especially believe avoiding tired old phrases in the narrative of the story is best.

What do you think?

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Excerpt from DADDY WANTED

Daddy Wanted will be released next month by the Prism Book Group. Below is an excerpt from the advanced reading copy, not the final galley.

Grace held her breath until Ulysses moved. He blinked at her and scrambled into his small pool. She sprinkled a few grains of his food into the water and he went after them with the precision of a heat-seeking missile. The turtle belonged to her roommate, Elyse, but she neglected him. Grace feared one day she would wake up and find he had passed away.

Assured of the red-eared slider’s vitality, she stumbled into the bathroom, groggy from lack of sleep. She should never have turned off the snooze alarm. Her boss had scheduled a morning meeting and she might have to run all the way to work to arrive in time.

Despite her blurry vision, a vivid pink color in the wastebasket caught her attention. Her heart sank when she read the words on the box, Pregnancy Test Kit. She supposed she should not be surprised. Every man in New York City adored Elyse. Her slightly exotic, almond-shaped eyes, curly, coal-black hair, and perfect hourglass figure drew men to her.

Grace’s throat tightened. Her roommate might be in major trouble. A lot of young women went through pregnancy scares, but Elyse never had any trouble until now, which was a miracle considering her physique.

A cold chill went down Grace’s spine. How could Elyse take care of a baby if she could not take care of Ulysses?

Grace fought to tame her short, mousy brown bed-head hair and lost the battle. She put down the brush and opted to wear a hat. Her current favorite resembled a designer hat she saw at Saks. She purchased the knock-off from a vendor on the street, since the genuine article would have reduced her to poverty. She tilted the chapeau to one side and imagined herself a movie star from one of the ancient black and white films Gram favored. She pursed her lips and batted her eyelashes. The vision in the mirror did not resemble Lillian Gish. Disappointed, she told herself the bitter cold of February would give her frostbitten ears if she did not wear the hat.

Her gaze rested on the pink box again and a cold knot settled in her chest. Should she ask Elyse about the test? Would Elyse volunteer the information?

She had been sharing the apartment on Lorimer Street in Brooklyn with Elyse for the past year and a half. Men regularly appeared on the doorstep hungering after Elyse. She had more boyfriends than Ben & Jerry had ice cream flavors, but most of the swains did not last long until Aidan came along. Elyse’s infatuation with Aidan proved the most intense, up until one week ago when they had a fight.

Elyse called him a slacker because he did not have a job, nor did he appear to have any hope of landing one soon. “Do you think you can sponge off me for the rest of your life?”

Aidan did not respond. Instead, he walked out.

After the altercation, Aidan went from being an unemployed actor to imitating a rather good magician. He vanished, which might not be too hard to accomplish in a city with eight million people, but the speed of his departure made it impressive, at least to Grace. He had been crashing at an apartment with two other young men, and they vowed he had left no forwarding address after he’d packed up and moved out in less than an hour.

Grace needed more time than that to pack up her books.

After Aidan’s departure, Elyse dissolved into long bouts of crying. Her grief would undoubtedly worsen if the pregnancy test came out positive.

Grace glanced at the mirror again. Dark smudges under her eyes attested to all her sympathetic listening. What else could she do? Elyse had helped her through the worst tragedy in her life. She had to be there for her friend.

Over and over, Elyse had blurted out between sobs, “He was such a poser!”

Grace bit her lip to prevent herself from saying, “Well, yeah. He’s an actor.”

The dull throb of a headache pulsed in her temples. She had the chore of taking out the garbage this week, which made her solely responsible for stuffing the pregnancy test kit box into the building’s trashcan. She did not want anyone else in the apartment building to view the evidence. Especially, the new guy in apartment 2L who always seemed to be hanging around the garbage cans whenever she stepped outside. The mailbox in the vestibule listed him as Russell Thorpe.

She frowned as she recalled how often he hung around the stairway when she came downstairs. When she picked up her mail, he stood in the vestibule and glanced over her shoulder, as she flipped through her bills.

Was he a stalker?

If so, he didn’t instill any fear or panic in her. She did not break out in a cold sweat. On the contrary, instant warmth slid through her and her heart flip-flopped at his nearness though they never spoke to each other. Sometimes, he nodded at her.

Her brief musing ended, when Elyse banged on the bathroom door.

“Let me in!”

Grace hurried out. Elyse stood before her with wide eyes and a hand over her mouth. Then she ran into the bathroom and slammed the door.

Grace sank onto one of the kitchen chairs and covered her eyes. Elyse has morning sickness!

Grace squelched a groan, when she glanced at her watch. The boss scheduled the meeting at work for nine-thirty—in Manhattan. She hated rush hour in the subway,—strangers pressed together as closely as oranges in the display case at the fruit stand on Nassau Avenue.

She heard the sound of the toilet flushing, as she grabbed her backpack and coat.

“Are you going to be okay?” she called out.

“Get moving. You’re late.”

“I M me at work!” She ran down the stairs. The guy in 2L came out of his door, but she kept her eyes focused on the steps. She did not want to look at him. If she cast a glance at him she would be left with the sensation of losing her balance and toppling off her surfboard. She had never met a man as tall, as handsome, or so...intense.

“Are you practicing for the marathon?” A hint of humor touched his voice.

She caught a whiff of his aftershave, as she passed. The woodsy undertones had her remembering the scent of the tall pines which grew in Gram’s backyard in Long Branch, New Jersey.

“I’m late.” She clipped her words, as she gripped the railing of the last flight of stairs.

“That’s unusual for you.”

Her heart thundered, as she hurried into the vestibule and escaped onto the street. What was she going to do? The guy watched her every move.

For more information go to http://prismbookgroup.com/DaddyWanted.html

Friday, April 12, 2013

Free Books--One Reader's Opinion

There has been some discussion as of late about whether offering books for free helps authors to snag new readers. As an author, I did offer my book Prince of the Mist for free on Smashwords once for a limited time. Lots of people downloaded the book. Have they bought my other books because they enjoyed Prince of the Mist? I don't know.

I am not just a writer. I am a reader who just happens to have some special privileges. One of my special privileges is that I can get free books from some of my publishers if I write a review and post it on Amazon for them.

This is like handing crack to a cocaine addict. You know I was delighted to download those books and add them to my formidable to-be-read pile of books.

The little gif above shows some of the books I've read over the last few months that I downloaded for free. Some were from my publishers. However, some of them were special offers for a limited time, some were available in Nook's free Fridays program. Not pictured are some of the classics I've downloaded from Gutenberg for free.

I enjoyed all the books. Would I BUY one of the author's other books because I got one for free? The answer is a qualified maybe. I have so many books to read and I am continually acquiring them, that the possibility of me downloading another one of the author's books is remote--although, I have to say that if the book was in a series (as some of them are), there is a better chance I will buy another one in the series.

I always do my best to support other writers in my community. I have bought many, many books by New Jersey authors. Unfortunately, I haven't gotten around to reading all of them. Does this stop me from buying more books? NO!

I buy plenty of used books, too. Just last night, I bought a used copy of Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation at our town library. I've been wanting to read it for the longest time--and there it was for only fifty cents. How could I pass it up?

I do buy ebooks for the Nook and from Kindle. Ebooks are inexpensive. Why wouldn't I buy them?

I still buy paper editions from Barnes & Noble, too. Because people know I am crazy about books, I often get gift cards to Barnes & Noble. (Yes, let the world know you have a serious reading habit and they will happily help you drown in books.)

As a reader, I love free ebooks but I would spend money to buy the books I want.

As a writer, I really believe all authors should be paid for their work.

What do you think?

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Better GIF--I Think...

I sat down and redid my little gif. I hope this works better. I also hope it helps to sell books. On the other hand, I could go into business making little gifs...

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

A Little GIF for You

With the second round of edits out of the way, I am gearing up to promote Daddy Wanted. To me, promotion is more work than the actual writing of the book. However, I love little animated gifs. This one is currently destined for the Romance Junkies website, but it may wind up in other places as well. I spent a ridiculous amount of time making this--mostly because I haven't done it in a while so I forgot the procedure.

After I finished the gif, I went on to make an Advanced Reading Copy of Daddy Wanted so I can send it out to reviewers. (If you are a reviewer and enjoy sweet, contemporary romances without sex, let me know.)

I had postcards made and still have to send those out, too.

I'll be putting up an excerpt from the book here--and probably on my Facebook fan page as well. So much to do!

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Defending the Fourth Estate

My father spent his entire career in journalism except for a stint in the Air Force during World War II. At a young age, I knew about the importance of the Fourth Estate. I knew about liable and slander, stopping the presses, deadlines, and the importance of punctuation. I knew a great deal about putting a newspaper together. I had respect for what my father and his colleagues did every day in getting the news out into the world.

The world has changed considerably since my father retired. Newspapers have lost circulation and many have gone under. Yet, we get the news faster than ever before. The news is available from many sources now--from the internet, from television, from Twitter, from self-proclaimed "experts" on blogs.

Often, the news is slanted toward one view or another. It is difficult to know who to trust.

Still, I am grateful that there is a free flow of information. Coaches cannot get away with mistreating the members of their teams. Policemen cannot get away with undue brutality. Priests cannot abuse young children.

New windows are open to the truth.

Below are some photos taken of my father in action back in the heyday of his journalism career. You can see him wielding his soft-leaded pencil while juggling a paper pad during interviews. Years later, tiny tape recorders replaced the pencil and pad, outdating the axiom: the pen is mightier than the sword.

Ray and a colleague from a rival paper at work in a room with bars on the window. It probably was in a police station.
Newsmen and a woman scribe from several metropolitan papers, including Ray on the left, take notes as the center of attention responds to questions on a now long forgotten subject.
Chief of detectives and uniformed officers protect back of unidentified man in crowd of unlookers and reporters. With the cops there, the gathering probably had something to do with unrest on the Hoboken waterfront.
Ray outside a police stable while researching a feature on mounted policemen.

In the Fifties, no respectful white collar worker would show up for work without a tie, ironed shirt, and a jacket. Ray was no different, as shown here.

Ray waiting on the deck of an ocean liner to interview some celebrity or newsmaker. Since the Holland-America Line docked in Hoboken, part of his job was to board the ships from overseas and talk to passengers chosen by the news editor.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

If You Only Have A Little Time to Read....

I am currently bogged down in the second round of edits for Daddy Wanted, which should be released sometime next month. (I can hardly wait!!!!) But in the meantime, the rest of you should be reading. Summer is coming with long, lazy days (I hope), where you can sit outside in the shade and devour lots and lots of books. So get your reading muscles in shape now and download some short, free stories.

Once upon a time, two people met--Luke and Rachel. You really should read about them--especially since you can do so for free. Prism Book Group has free short stories available at their website as well as at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. At 24 pages, Lightning Stikes is great for your lunch break. After the Storm, which comes in at 31 pages, is a sweet dessert. I helped to write the ending for After the Storm, so you really MUST read it.

Blizzard Wedding, part of the continuing saga of Luke and Rachel, will soon be available at Prism Book Group, too.

Get your reading muscles in shape now! You don't want to have a flabby brain when the warm weather hits. :^)