Saturday, May 30, 2009

But the "U" Allows Me To Find Personalized Tourist Keychains

Laura Hogg, fellow Wild Rose Press author, interviewed me for her blog, Travel the Ages. It is quite possible we are the same person living parallel existences: she loves all things time travel and my parents named me for Lara in Dr. Zhivago, too, but for that pesky "u". Hop over, leave a comment, win a print copy of Love, Texas Style.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

A Mother's Kung Fu

I love knowing how people crash-land here, and I've done this type of post before; but alas, there are so many more gems to cover. Who knew The Vortex was the information mecca for people typing Google Keyword searches on:

macgyver pantyhose
I can only surmise someone with an iphone found themselves an unfortunate victim of a full-stall bathroom imprisonment and heard rumors of the pantyhose/battery/sanitary napkin dispenser bomb. Happy to be of service.

why Ben Gay hurts armpits
Honestly, I don't remember covering this morsel. Honey, if your armpits hurt so much you are tempted to reach for the Ben Gay, you have more pressing issues than blog-hopping. Wheel of Fortune is on!

vortex fish caller
Is this a sport I'm unaware of? Much like bird calling, but in a swirling chasm of debilitating energy?

lost sawyers chest hair
Glad this googler knew I'd be happy to aid in the search. And on the subject of chest hair, which I must mention more times than is prudent on a professional writer's blog:

hairy chest Christopher Plummer
Christopher Plummer hairy chest
Not content to (a) leave any stone unturned in the quest for her ideal thespian's attributes nor (b) toss caution to the keyword Gods but once, this Vortex visitor no doubt left disappointed, which will simply not do. Unfortunately, this man is bundled tighter than bark on a tree. Turtlenecks and starched collars abound. First, I found this:

Egads..... I'm guessing this one is much closer to what you had in mind, dear Googler...

bodies soaked in the rain
beauty of a woman's heart
Could any search be more of a compliment for a romance writer? Target audience: bulls-eye.

elvis rain soaked kiss
Okay, this one was just a present, wasn't it? If anyone knows of such a kiss, I'll be your BFF.

pamela suck dogs
Sadly, I'm not acquainted with Pamela, which leaves me at a disadvantage to judge whether or not she, indeed, sucks dogs.

Finally, in honor of my mom's much-anticipated visit today, a four day extravaganza filled with pedis, conference shoe shopping and Hobby Lobby worship, I leave you with this:

(Philosophy of Physics Final Exam: Is it possible to travel back in time and kill your mother before she gave birth to you?)

Monday, May 25, 2009

Smiles Forgotten, Smiles Lost, Smiles Found

Many congrats to Robin, who won the free copy of Kim Lenox's So Still the Night. Robin, email me your address at and I'll drop it in the mail.

I can only assume (and hope) from the quiet activity in the blogosphere this past weekend that my American Vortex readers were out celebrating Memorial Day weekend with more than just mattress sales and Ball Park franks. Last year, I had the honor of turning an old, forgotten box of photos from boot camp and the Korean War into a scrapbook for a very special veteran. This man has had a hard road. Very few times do I remember him smiling or showing emotion. On the day I presented it, he cried. I get it now in a way I never got it before. Seeing him standing on a tank, youthful and vibrant, arms linked with his gunner or enjoying a cigarette with his buddies laughing about some secret lost to everyone but them helped me see him in a new light. Sadly, I think his army days are the only true happiness he has ever found in life. He keeps the dark, leather-bound book, hidden compartment in the back for his medals and dogtags, by his favorite chair. I'm told he looks at it daily. He is my window into Memorial Day, and he is why I Tweet to ReMIND today.

Here's a peep at my birthday cake yesterday:

Okay, just kidding. But who wouldn't want a fondant Sawyer and Dharma beer to help them usher in the next year?

Since May is passing in a blurr, cram-packed with celebratory rites of passage for those around me, I offer up my new favorite blog-indulgence: Awkward Family Photos. It is the laughable humiliation we all share. Be sure to go back several pages to see the true comedic morsels.

Have a great Monday, everyone!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Review : So Still the Night by Kim Lenox

Today it is my supreme pleasure to pass along my review of Kim Lenox 's second novel in her Shadow Guard series, So Still the Night. For those just arriving to The Vortex, Lenox's debut novel, Night Falls Darkly, became one of my favorite reads of 2008 and earned a coveted place on my keeper shelf (and remember, I don't have the dreamy shelves that take up expansive real estate yet). I anticipated this latest release, doubting if any sophmore entry into the paranormal romance genre could be as satisfying as her first. How wrong I was to worry. So Still the Night exceeded my hopes.

Marcus Helios, an immortal member of the elite Shadow Guards tasked with reclaiming the most wicked and depraved human souls, rose to a supreme level of self-sacrifice when he exchanged one heroic act for his sanity. In danger of transcending and being hunted in Victorian London by the very order who seeks to rid the world of his kind, his only hope to return to the Guard's graces lies encoded in an ancient scroll in the hands of a beautiful woman named Mina, who'll protect her father's archaeological legacy at all costs. This time, Jack the Ripper's jilted lover, The Dark Bride, preys on Mark's ever-present descent into madness, threatening to forever exile him to the dark side to await his assassination.

Though on the surface, Mark seems a more refined and sophisticated hero than Night Falls Darkly's Archer, the extent of his inner demons and the irony of him being both savior and sinner make him an irresistible hero. Yes, the cover art Gods shined on Lenox's entire series, but don't let Mark's quasi-Men-Without-Hats-guy appearance fool you. He's devastatingly charming, confident, sensual and tortured. Sign me up!

Lenox's Victorian London holds no wilting flowers, either. As Elena was in book one, Mina is a strong, independent and adventurous heroine, even challenging the hero's sexual prowess when he questions her about her virginity. She wavers confidently between self-preservation and desire, never letting the reader forget how intelligent women navigate challenges of the mind and affairs of the heart.

Lenox's brand of paranormal comes seasoned lightly with a taste of the Gothic, incorporating fog-laden crypts, skeletal flashes of madness, and palpable fear woven seamlessly into unforgettable scenes rife with sexual tension. I doubt I'll look at a hot air balloon the same again. Just sayin'. Her prose is direct when it needs to be, a painted masterpiece of visuals to draw the reader in and passionately true to the genre.

And the best part? I happen to have an extra pristine copy of So Still the Night along with a handful of glossy bookmarks to slide into your summer read. All you have to do is leave a comment in this post by midnight Sunday. I'll draw a name first thing Monday. You don't have to have read Night Falls Darkly to immerse yourself in So Still the Night, but why deny yourself? Find that one, too.

Comment away...

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Happy Red Envelopes

So I've been all up into Netflix since about a year ago, even gushed about it in this post, and you still haven't tried it? Good news. I have two free month rental codes in my hot little hand-that's two weeks longer than the free trial offered on their website. Double your Hugh Jackman, double your pleasure. Yes, you'll have to enter a valid payment method to make sure they can charge you if, say, your Boxer noshes on Hotel for Dogs, but you're free to cancel anytime during the month if you don't love it. But you will. Promise.

This should be easy if you've been a Vortex reader for even a bit. The first two different blog visitors to post the title of my #1 and #2 favorite time travel flick get the code. No sense checking my profile, people. I'm on to you. And if The Vortex isn't coming to you via feed, why the Stephen Hawking not? You're missing out on time-sensitive fun.

If you already have Netflix you're ineligible, but alas, already cool. Let us know in the comments the last movie you watched that came in the happy red envelope and enjoy this random photo of Jerry O'Connell abusing his Netflix stash by folding and dropping them.
Last two in my happy red envelope:

The Reader
The Five People You Meet in Heaven

Watch for another giveaway this week. Feed, people. Sign up.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Battle of the Kisses

Pucker up, Vortex readers. It's the Battle of The Kiss today.

In one corner, French photographer Robert Doisneau's "The Kiss". Taken in 1950 near the L'Hotel de Ville in Paris his images "presented a charming vision of human frailty and life as a series of quiet incongruous moments."(Robert Doisneau's Encyclopedia of Photography, 1984)

In the opposing corner, random kiss for which I have no information. Contrived as it may be, it is visually stunning. Let's call it "The Kick." Rumor has it, this leg extension is rarely a reflex but began under Old Hollywood's strict Puritanical rules that actresses were always to keep at least one foot on the floor to prevent any hanky panky. Many chose to push the boundaries and have only one foot on the floor.

Vote at the sidebar.
Which kiss is your favorite?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Ten Ways to MacGyver Your Way Through RWA's National Conference

My quest for the perfect RWA Awards Ceremony dress aligned with two completely indulgent, delicious MacGyver reruns this week to inspire another Vortex 10! Despite Tami Cowden's homage to MacGyver in her professor-warrior archetype blend, romance writers have yet to fully embrace a character that has taught us (1) explosive necklaces can be quite fashionable; (2) pop culture rewards awesome heroes by busting out fresh liberties with parts of speech; and (3) some people can go out into the wilderness to find their dreams, or a really fake looking Sasquatch. With this in mind, I offer:

Ten Ways to MacGyver Your Way Through RWA's National Conference

1) In the Pilot episode, MacGyver used milk chocolate to stop a sulfuric acid leak. Milk chocolate can be used to stop the noxious gas of a plot leak as well. Have some on hand when an impromptu editor question such as, "What is your book about?" spawns incoherent, odoriferous babbling such as, "This girl, she um, have you seen....oh, what's that movie?"

2) Strapless bra traveling south? Why not adopt MacGyver's Secret-of-the-Red-Carpet? Duct Tape. Consider the after-event removal as a waxing bonus. Score.

3) Lost your bobby pins in the fertile, feminine jungle that is a four-way-shared-bathroom? No problem. The three inch long screw affixing the remote to the table works as a perfect hairpin. Best if the screw has a sharp tip to ram it home.

4) Toilet-seat covers function as the perfect blotter for those unexpected moments before your editor appointment when your pores are leaking the fluid you retained from your cheesecake-as-dinner the previous night.

5) In season three, MacGyver blasted a door open using pantyhose, a battery and an oil can. Nice to know if you get stuck in a floor-to-ceiling restroom stall your L'eggs, Ipod and the sanitary napkin dispenser can save you.

6) If there's one thing MacGyver taught us about decadence, it's that a lavish party is the perfect diversion for someone to hack into your computer. Romance writers with rabid Annie-Wilks-type fans should incorporate a memory stick into their decolletage for safe-keeping.

7) The sea of workshop choices can be daunting. Don't have a pen to mark the one you want? Run your fingernail along your Maybelline-adorned lips and etch it into the conference book. It's like a red editing pen without the tears and crippling self-doubt.

8) Beware the zipper diversion. Desperate representation-hungry writers are waiting in the wings to infiltrate the casual conversation you've managed to score with your dream agent. Like MacGyver, they know string and a paperclip hooked into a dress zipper can give them enough time to defuse your f-bomb and send you scurrying, mortified, into the ladies room. Man those zippers!

9) Our mulleted-but-hot hero knows Morse Code and you should, too. Appointments are an optimum time to casually shed your silver bangle and tap out subliminal messages such as:

-... . - - . .-. - .... .- -. -.-- .. .-.. .. --. .... - : better than Twilight


--- .--. .-. .- .... .--. .. -.-. -.- : Oprah pick

10) Raid your purse. Compacts are great rear-view mirrors. Camera lenses act as magnifying glasses in a pinch. Critique partners can string together Post-it notes and dental floss and lower into a conversation-hog's line of vision for distraction and escape ala MacGyver's "Lost Love" episode.

If this merely whets your appetite to MacGyverize your conference trip, try FoxNews's article on How to Travel Like MacGyver. See you in July!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Teen Mags, Hubba Bubba and Duct Tape

Before the Vortex 10 unveiling tomorrow, I feel the unquenchable urge to project just how deep this MacGyver neurosis goes. In addition to my faux-journalistic intentions, my early teen years were dominated by a conspiracy to meet/stalk/otherwise possess some artifact of Richard Dean Anderson. It's a rite of passage for teen girls, right? That blurred line between reality and fiction, actor and character? The broken fringe off of Denver Broncos's Vance Johnson's leather jacket, my only true encounter with celebrity to that point, just wasn't cutting it. I plotted family trips to Vancouver. Attempted Macgyverisms for science fair projects. I went into cardiac arrest over lunch at a Universal Studios snack area when I spied his handprints and siggy preserved in cement. I had slides, people. I wanted to add them to our family trays on slide-show nights.

Dad: "Hell no."

My brother was relentless in annoying liberties with MacGyver's character:

"Do you ever see him with a girl? Really with a girl? He's gay."

"He's wounded. Every woman that was close to him died. He couldn't bear to put someone he loved in harm's way."

"He's gay."

"This isn't Falcon Crest. He doesn't have time. He's too busy carrying out Pete's orders."

"Pete's gay, too."

For the next decade, anytime I was in my brother's company and someone who'd dial the gay-dar up to full strength walked by, my brother would sing, "Da-da-da" in MacGyver theme-song-tribute. As an adult, I can address the truth:

"They introduced a love interest in season two and received so much hate mail, they wrote her out of the script."

"He was still gay."

My only request to the New Line producers who have green-lighted a full-length feature MacGyver film (as of March 2009) is to find that romantic subplot. Please. The fourteen year old in me is screaming for validation. Vicariousness. Nostalgia. And if you cast anyone but Richard Dean Anderson, let the stalking commence.

Check out this action figure from Brazil. They got the hair BEYOND wrong. Geez. It's like Lucille Ball in a Member's Only jacket.Lest anyone accuse me of lacking "author branding" focus in this post, I offer you this time-inspired MacGyver-ish tidbit on estimating remaining daylight courtesy of the ultra fun Show Me Now website.


Tomorrow: Ten Ways to MacGyver Your Way Through RWA National

Sunday, May 10, 2009

A Fat Boy...Can You Feel The Love?

The internet is a pretty incredible place for ideas to gather momentum and sometimes, as in the case of writer Travis Erwin, the internet becomes a vehicle to gather some amazing people and magic happens. I don't know anything about a Harley Fat Boy, but I suspect some Vortex reader knows a person who adores motorcycles and might want a chance to win one to help out a member of my extended family. I've never met Peter Woodley, but he's a very special uncle to my niece and nephew. Peter has put up a hero's fight against Lymphoma; and just as the family is celebrating finding a bone marrow donor, the overwhelming cost seems insurmountable. One $100 raffle ticket enters you into a drawing to be held June 28th. First prize: a 2009 Harley Fat Boy (like the one pictured here). Second Prize: $5,000 cash. For more information, visit the Woodley's Family Fund site.

Wednesday: another Vortex 10!
10 Ways to MacGyver Your Way Through Romance Writers of America's National Conference

Friday, May 8, 2009

Auctions and Debuts and Bosoms, Oh My

Before I jump into all things books, I want to pass along a link to Brenda Novak's Online Auction for Diabetes Research. Brenda began this tradition many years ago, but it's blossomed into THE place for publishing industry heavy hitters to give back and THE place to browse in May for once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. If you haven't yet checked it out this year, go. Now. I'll wait. The bid for Stephen King's Danse Macabre is surprisingly low right now as is the African Safari six-night romantic vacation for two. Be sure to read the fine print. This offer excludes telephone and laundry-a romantic stretch for me. The laundry, not the phone. Seriously, from editor and agent evaluations of your manuscript to signed Aerosmith and Jonas Brothers guitars, there's something for everyone. Have fun browsing!

In other exciting news, aside from being a faithful Vortex reader, Kim Lenox's follow-up to her highly successful debut novel, Night Falls Darkly, hit shelves this week. So Still the Night is the second in her Shadow Guard series, which follows a shadowy order of immortals tasked with tracking down and reclaiming the most evil and depraved mortal souls. I became such a shameless fangirl after book one that So Still the Night has screeched to the forefront of my to-be-read pile for the weekend. Kim's stories are filled with the dark, rich history of true crimes that plagued Victorian London, unforgettable Alpha heroes, steampunk elements and gifted prose. Visit the Silk & Shadows blog and comment before midnight tonight for a chance to win a free copy. You knew there was a reason you had Vortex on feed, right?

Today, I thought I'd share some of the titles in my absurdly large reading pile. Normally, I don't have more than one book going at a time. My mistake was succumbing to the temptation to read just the first paragraph, okay-the first page, holy crap-is it dinner time? So, this weekend, after Kim's book, here's the lineup:

Notice how physics completely balances out the Smart Bitches humor? And Peter Abraham's young adult novels were my reward for finishing edits. LOVE him like Stephen King does, I do.

What are you reading?

Monday, May 4, 2009

A Writer's Native Habitat

One of my things this season is to recreate my writing space. Right now, I'm tripped out feng shui-style, but it's an o-so-far cry from inspirational. Has it helped my productivity? Sent the universe's ju-ju vibes my direction? Yes and no. My goal board doesn't need a complete overhaul for all the stellar accomplishments since my desk migrated, but the flow was there and good writer-ly things did come to me this year. Hard to say if it was because I faced the doors to my writing space and moved the rejection pile away from my career-focused north-east corner or if it was just plain hard work, but who am I to fight the universe's pull?

All these thoughts of change sent me fleeing from the IKEA and Pottery Barn catalogs that clog my mailbox. They look perfect, don't they? The glossy layouts of home office space with juicy lime colors, organized with every overpriced do-da known to man. At times, I find myself falling into the notion I could create a thousand Pulitzer-prize winning novels there a year if only I had that kind of space/storage/picture-perfect setting. Why wouldn't an artist-rendered push pin that cost more than a 100-count box of pencils translate into beauty on the page?

Then I catch myself. Those spaces are as unimaginative as they are nonfunctional (Don't you love the way they use laptops without cords and designer chairs that would leave us all crippled by day's end?) My quest for something real took me to some amazing writer's spaces. Check them out:

This space is rumored to be where Jane Austen crafted most of her novels. No doubt, it's the smallest desk ever used by a writer. Truly a playground of the mind. Just for you, Marilyn.

This is Graham Swift's space. I included it because it spoke to me in two ways. Though orange would be dead-last in my paint options to inspire dark romance, the color shows courage, depth of thought, emotion. And to me, Ye-of-Sixth-Grade-Desk, the real estate he has to spread out his pages and thoughts looks like heaven. He has the trashcan at the forefront. I know he's keeping it real.

Simon Armitage's writer-space has the full-length, floor to ceiling bookcases that make my heart palpitate, but I also love that even the structure of his desk (foreground) is comprised of stacked books. Keeping it real: the slippers.

My absolute favorite from The Guardian's on-going photo collection is Kevin Crossley's writer-space in Holland. View on three sides and enough ceiling to channel the creative gods. Just out of the photo, crossbeams painted in "marsh-green, sea-lavender, duck-egg, woad ... colours of contemplation," according to Crossley.

More telling than any photograph, though, are the stories of their space, narrated in most cases by the writers themselves. Details essential to creation. Mile markers of their own literary journey. And the ever-present trash can.

Paige Cuccaro's Writer's Cave displays writer-spaces from Kim Harrison and Laurell K. Hamilton to Jim Butcher and Sherrilyn Kenyon. Would that I had a fireplace in my writer's space like Lisa Kleypas. A girl can dream, right?

Stay tuned for pictures of my writer-space. Think there will be a clock?

Post a link in the comments to a photo of your writer-space, your favorite space or let us know what is essential in your surroundings to tap into your creativity.