Thursday, August 23, 2012

Five minutes a day

I've long known that massive cleaning isn't my style. Things build up...and up...and up. And then they're really big. Case in point: the 3 unpacked boxes from my  move. Which was 3 1/2 years ago. Yup. Still in the basement, still in boxes. What's in there? Papers I probably don't need and can be shredded. Do I unpack them? Nope.

About a month ago, a close friend decided to spend 45 minutes a week doing something. Cleaning, paperwork, shredding, whatever. Great idea!

So I decided 5 minutes a day. It averages out to longer than 45 minutes a week, given that I do one task until it's finished no matter how long it takes.

Sunday I finally put away some Fourth of July decorations and rearranged the living room to the way I like it pre-Fourth of July party.

Monday was a wash. I wrote then crashed.

Tuesday I went through mail. Now this was harder than it sounds, because my puppy does not like the sound of ripping paper, the letter opener on envelopes, or piles of paper. She really hates the shredder! Tries to rescue the paper from those evil shredding depths.

I ended up opening and sorting about 4 weeks worth of junk mail. I always put the bills aside and pay those immediately, so no fear of lateness. But the rest is so tedious to sort through! I now have a massive pile of shredding and have dumped my recycling into the proper bucket.

Wednesday I did shred--see Tuesday & puppy. Didn't make it far, that pile still looks slightly intimidating, but it's a start, right?

And that's my goal. No matter how long it takes me to finish a project, by doing one task a day I plan on slowly sorting through the piles and piles of stuff I normally shift from room to room. Because when you have extra room, you have to fill them with that you don't want!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Lady Paisley Kirkpatrick and her first release!

Today I'm so pleased to welcome my dear friend and fellow Scandalous Victorian. Lady Paisley has her first release out this week, a wonderful western I absolutely loved! Check it out. Buy it. Read it.

William Blake (1757-1827) (English poet, painter and engraver) is one of the earliest and greatest figures of Romanticism. He emphasized individual, imaginative, visionary and emotional creativity. He privileged imagination over reason in the creation of both his poetry and images, asserting that ideal forms should be constructed not from observations of nature but from inner visions. He declared in one poem, “I must create a system or be enslaved by another man’s.”

When I read William Blake's statement it rang true with me. As authors we draw from our inner vision, or as we refer to it, our muse. Our imagination gathers information from which we draw our ideas and create our plots. People often ask where I get my ideas. I really have no idea. They just seem to pop into my head and I put them on paper.

I started writing to accomplish a dream -- to write a story. All of the rest has been the cream on top. I am now on my fifth story, and much to my amazement and delight my first story will be published on the 21st of August. Yes, with a lot of hard work and a bit of help from fate, dreams do come true. Mine just happened to have happened on Christmas Eve last year. I always thought I would scream and dance, but no, I sat frozen instead. All I could say was "WOW" in stunned amazement. My husband was asleep, and we never wake a sleeping bear. My critique partners live across the country from me and would probably have been happy to be awakened to hear my good news, but I just couldn't do it at 2:30 a.m. on Christmas morning. Now that I think back on it, having those special moments to myself might have been a good thing. It gave me time to reflect over the last years of working toward this moment.

Paradise Pines Series: Night Angel

Sassy Amalie Renard, a poker-playing saloon singer, shakes up Paradise Pines, a former gold-rush mountain community by turning the saloon’s bar into her stage. Her amazing voice stirs the passions of the hotel owner, a man who anonymously travels tunnels at night providing help to the downtrodden as the mysterious Night Angel.

Declan Grainger agrees to subsidize the building of a music hall to fulfill Amalie's dream, but a bounty for her arrest could spoil his plans. Distrust and jealousy stir flames of malice and revenge threatening to destroy their town. Drawing from past experiences, Declan and Amalie turn to each other to find a way to save the community.

All Romance
Barnes and Noble
Dessert Breeze

About Paisley:

My husband of 43 years and I raised two daughters. Now that he's retired I am working at my chosen profession of author. It's great that he supports my love of writing and lends a comment every now and that helps with plots. We have been fortunate enough to travel -- his favorite place is Germany and mine is Scotland. I have been a member and on the board of the Sacramento Valley Rose Chapter of RWA for 13 years, and online chapters From the Heart, Hearts Through History, and Celtic Hearts.


Thursday, August 16, 2012

Guest: Elane Cantrell

Today's guest is Elaine Cantrell and her latest release, Never Trust a Pretty Wolf.

Elaine was born and raised in South Carolina. She holds a Master’s Degree in Personnel Services from Clemson University and is a member of Alpha Delta Kappa, an international honorary sorority for women educators. She is also a member of Romance Writer’s of America and EPIC authors. Her first novel, A New Leaf, was the 2003 winner of the Timeless Love Contest and was published in 2004 by Oak Tree Books. At present she teaches high school social studies.

Where to find her:

Elaine will be giving away  a $25 Amazon gift certificate to one randomly drawn commenter, so be sure and mention you were here and follow her tour!

My Bucket List
Bucket lists are so interesting. I think they reveal a lot about a person’s life and values. That being said, I hope you think my list is worthy of completion.  I’d love to hear some things from your list. Do leave me a comment and tell me the number one thing on your own bucket list.  I’m truly interested in what you have to say.

 A great many of the items I’d like to put on my list are truly impossible, though.  For example, I have a grandson with autism.  If I could, I’d find out what causes it and how to cure it.  It’s too late for Simon, but I’d give almost anything to spare others from the pain of having a child with autism.  It’s one of the most dreadful things I’ve ever seen.   But I can’t do that.  At present no one can, so my list is going to focus on things that I can do. 

First, and this is really important to me, once I retire I hope to become active in animal rescue.  My own animals are all rescues or strays, which amounts to the same thing.  At present, I use my Facebook page to hopefully educate some thoughtless people about the correct way to treat animals.  I’d tell you what I saw on vacation, but it would break your heart.  No, come to think of it, I will tell you.  There was this woman who had a little dog with her on the beach.  The temperature that day was 103.  People were yelping and running as they crossed the beach to the water because their feet were burning.  My own feet felt like they were on fire from the heat trapped in the blazing sand.  The woman laid out a blanket and put up a tent, but she wouldn’t let the little dog on the blanket.  He whined and shifted from foot to foot and tried to get off the sand, but she made him stand there.  Once I saw what was happening I jumped up to go and probably start a fight, but it was too hot for her, and she left the beach.  What cruelty!  No doubt she didn’t see it that way, but how could she not?  If the heat was too much for her, didn’t she think how it would affect her pet?  See, I’m very passionate about this cause. 

Too cruel! I can't believe she wouldn't let the dog under the shade! As a dog owner myself, I can't understand that. My corgi doesn't like the heat but she does want to be with me wherever I am, so I've had to retrain myself to spend more time indoors with her. I also have a cooling bed for her and always make sure her water is very cold with ice cubes, which she loves!

Second, I want to master my photo editing software.  I’m told it’s a top notch system, but I can’t use it.  I can’t even understand the words in the instructions.  I know some people won’t understand this.  My sons were raised in the computer age, and they seem to instinctively know how to use almost any program.  Well, I was raised in an era where primitive computers took up a gigantic room and people fed them information using punch cards.  I’ve tried to figure the software out on my own, but it’s no use.  I’ve got to go and take a course somewhere.

Youtube. That's where I learned a lot about it! :)

Last, I’d like to see New England in the fall.  I’ve seen so many pictures, calendars, and cards with picturesque churches, Rockwell type villages, and lovely leaves that I want to experience it firsthand.  It seems as though something inside me instinctively yearns toward New England.  Maybe some of my ancestors came to the New World and lived in New England.  Maybe this yearning is some kind of racial memory.  And maybe I’ve just seen a lot of pretty pictures.   

Sounds lovely! 

I’m a fortunate person in that I’ve been able to achieve a lot of my dreams, not the least of which was becoming an author.  I wanted to write from the time I was a little girl, and I’m grateful that I gave it a try even though I had no idea if I could do it or not.  

Isabel, thank you so much for letting me come to your blog.  I’ve enjoyed talking to your readers tremendously, and it was fun to actually nail down my bucket list. I love reading others' lists, I think it helps me add to mine and it shares a bit about the author. Thanks so much for stopping by!

Okay, readers, it’s your turn.  Give me the number one item on your own list.

Liesel Wolf has a secret, a dangerous secret she’ll go to any lengths to conceal. When she’s paired in a charity game with sexy marshal Andy Bryce, a man with secrets of his own, her carefully constructed world comes crashing down, and Liesel’s on a collision course with her past.

The minute the blue Mustang came to a halt, the valet hurried to open the car door for the newcomer. A pair of long, shapely legs unfolded from the car. Andy’s mouth went dry as his eyes traveled from her legs to her face. He had discovered a goddess. An overworked cliché perhaps, but he knew of no other words to describe her.

The goddess had Titian hair which begged him to run his fingers through it, freeing those glorious curls. Even from where he stood, her eyes glowed with an emerald fire. Her skin looked as if it would put satin to shame. As he stared at her mouth, a bolt of fire stabbed him right below his belt. He could only imagine how it might feel to kiss and taste those lush, red lips.

She sashayed up to the porch and held out her hand to Melton. “Good evening, Thomas.”

Melton was having a hard time getting his voice under control, but he finally stuttered, “Welcome, L… Li… Liesel. It’s great to finally meet you in person. This is your partner, Andy Bryce. Andy’s a United States Marshal.”

The light left her face. She shot Andy a look of what he swore was dislike, even though they’d never met. “Oh, but I thought you said the mayor was my partner.”

Melton nodded. “He was. But something came up, and his brother’s filling in for him.”

She didn’t want to be his partner. Andy knew it as surely as he knew his own name. He wondered if she had heard about… Yeah, she could have. The story made most of the big papers. The Marshals had trained him to read people, so he knew Ms. Wolf didn’t like him.

Where to buy:
All Romance
Astraea Press
Barnes and Noble

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Blast: Shewanda Pugh and interracial romance

The blurb sounds fantastic here, I love interracial romances. I think this one will be an excellent read! Shewanda will be giving away a $10 Amazon gift card to one random commenter so be sure to comment!

When an insecure, bi-racial woman begins a cloak-and-dagger love affair with a Japanese American man, she is intent on keeping her bigoted family in the dark—albeit with devastating consequences. On the night of her brother’s murder, Deena Hammond stumbles upon Takumi Tanaka, lost and on the wrong end of a .32.

After rescuing him from the certain fate driving through the hood in a Porsche will bring, a sweet kind of friendship begins. A balm for her grief. Maybe, Deena likes to think, it happened the day her white mother killed her black father. Or maybe, it was always a part of them, like DNA gone bad. Whatever the case, Deena knows that her family would never approve, hell, never acknowledge her fast-growing love for Takumi. And had he never made love to her that way, in that unraveling, soul-searching sort of way, she could’ve done the same.

But love’s a devil that way. So, their game begins.

One where they hide what they are from everyone. Anyone. And Tak understands this—for now. After all, Deena’s career hinges on the favor of her mentor and boss, his hard-ass of a father. And the Hammond family is already stretched thin with grief. Yet, each step Deena takes toward family and career brings her closer to an acceptance she’s never had. And away from him.

“I wish that I didn’t want my family’s love so bad. I wish I could be one of those people who wore leather jackets and didn’t give a damned.”

Tak shot her a look. “You’d be musty if you wore a leather jacket in this heat.”

Deena grinned. “You know what I mean.”

He shrugged. “Who doesn’t want a decent family, Dee? It’s not much to ask for.”

Tak paused to pluck a seashell from the sand. Chipped and polished by time, it shone under the glint of a fast setting sun. “I don’t know the answers,” he said. “But they seem to be in things like this,” he held up the shell.

She frowned. “I don’t follow.”

He shrugged. “Well think about it. What’s a shell? It’s just a—a hard, protective outer layer.” He hurled it in the ocean. “The same is true with family. They’re an outer layer, a protection from the world. At least that’s what they’re supposed to be.” He paused. “Think about what happens when you screw with an animal that has one of those hard shells. What does he do?”

“He goes into it.”

“Right. He retreats.” He thumbed the shell thoughtfully. “Now imagine if you were to rip the shell off a turtle and expose him. What do you think you’d find?”

Deena cringed. “Something soft and hurting.

“And dead, if not close to it. So, our hypothetical turtle, who’s able to stand our shell transplant, needs another shell, another form of protection. And so do you.” Tak handed the grooved and sand-polished subject to Deena. She looked down at it.

“So, how’ve I been surviving all this time? What’s my shell?”

Tak grinned. “Tell you what. I’ll let you know when I crack it.”

(Copyright by Shewanda Pugh)

About Shewanda:
Shewanda Pugh is a native of Boston’s inner city, though she now lives in sunny Miami, Florida. She has a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Alabama A&M University and a Master’s in Writing from Nova Southeastern University. Fueled from a young age, her passion for crossing societal boundaries like race, class and culture, is the inspiration for both her cluttered bookshelf and her writing. When she’s not busy obsessing over fiction, she can be found traveling, nursing her social networking addiction or enjoying the company of loved ones.


Friday, August 10, 2012

Blast: Kele Moon and star crossed hotness

I love the concept of this book and might just have to find myself a copy!
Heavyweight UFC fighter, Romeo Wellings comes from the hard streets of New York where his family ties to the mafia cause him nothing but pain. His life takes a surprising detour when he crosses paths with the twin sister of his long time enemy. After a steamy one-night stand, he faces the fight of his life, but it’s not in the cage. The secret relationship that blooms between Romeo and his real life Juliet has him battling his family and a dark past rather than let her go.

The only lawyer in her hometown of Garnet, Jules Conner is also a volunteer Sheriff’s deputy and co-owner of a successful MMA training center. Strong and dependable, Jules is always there for those who need her. Until one forbidden night in Las Vegas with Romeo leaves her feeling so alive she can’t stop reaching out to the sexy, bad boy of MMA, even knowing the forbidden love affair could jeopardize everything.
As the tide rises against them and the people they love work at keeping them apart, Romeo and Jules hold onto a dream for a better life together and vow to go down fighting rather than accept a tragic ending.

“Got enough bags?” asked a warm, sexy voice behind her, amusement laced thickly in his New York accent. “Don’t they teach those country boys manners? They got you carrying everything. I guess chivalry’s officially dead.”

Jules turned around, giving Romeo a look of horror. He just smiled in response, bold and cocky as ever. She wasn’t sure why she was surprised. She glanced back to Wyatt, seeing that he had indeed heard Romeo and was now glaring in their direction as he waited for their tickets.

“Wellings,” she said coolly, despite her pulse picking up and her body responding to him being so near. “Strange coincidence running into you.”

“Not that strange. We all got places to be.” He stepped closer, invading her personal space. Jules jumped when Romeo reached out and grabbed her hand, squeezing it in his larger one. His thumb swept over the top of it as he leaned in and whispered, “If you were on my team, I’d carry all those bags for you.”

Jules jerked her hand out of Romeo’s embrace, turning around to make sure Wyatt hadn’t seen. Feeling very self-conscious, she snapped, “I’m a capable woman. I don’t need anyone to carry my bags for me.”

“Maybe you do, and you just don’t know it yet.” Romeo’s smile grew broader. “You ever think of visiting New York?”

“I’ve been to New York,” Jules said, unable to resist a teasing smirk. “I ain’t all that impressed with it.”

Romeo laughed. “That’s ’cause you haven’t seen my New York.”

Wyatt came up before Jules could respond. He handed her the new ticket, saying, “They fixed ’em.” He grabbed Clay’s carry-on off Jules’s left shoulder, all the while glaring at Romeo before he managed a tense greeting. “Wellings.”

“Conner,” Romeo responded, all good humor gone from his voice.

It was an awkward moment. Jules was just pondering how to break away without being too rude to Romeo or too obvious to Wyatt when one of Romeo’s brothers, who lingered near the sliding glass doors, waved him down.

“You coming or what?”

Romeo waved back, looking irritated at his brother before he gave Jules a look: longing, regret, sadness. She wasn’t real sure what it meant, and she didn’t have time to analyze it.

He turned to leave with a clipped, “Later.”

“Okay,” Jules said softly, trying to sort out her own feelings. That seemed like too humble a good-bye for what they’d shared, but she found herself echoing his words. “Later.”

Where to buy Star-Crossed

All Romance
Barnes and Noble

About Kele:
A freckle-faced redhead born and raised in Hawaii, Kele Moon has always been a bit of a sore thumb and has come to enjoy the novelty of it. She thrives on pushing the envelope and finding ways to make the impossible work in her story telling. With a mad passion for romance, she adores the art of falling in love. The only rules she believes in is that, in love, there are no rules and true love knows no bounds.

So obsessed is she with the beauty of romance and the novelty of creating it, she’s lost in her own wonder world most of the time. Thankfully she married her own dark, handsome, brooding hero who has infinite patience for her airy ways and attempts to keep her grounded. When she leaves her keys in the refrigerator or her cell phone in the oven, he’s usually there to save her from herself. The two of them now reside in Florida with their three beautiful children, who make their lives both fun and challenging in equal parts—they wouldn’t have it any other way.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Guest: Justin Ordonez

Today I'd like to welcome Justin Ordoñez and his fabulously titled, Sykosa...

Justin was born in Spain, raised in the mid-west, and currently lives in Seattle. He's nearly thirty years old, almost graduated from the University of Washington, and prefers to wait until TV shows come out on DVD so he can watch them in one-shot while playing iPad games. For fifteen years, he has written as a freelance writer, occasionally doing pieces as interesting as an editorial, but frequently helping to craft professional documents or assisting in the writing of recommendation letters for people who have great praise for friends or colleagues and struggle to phrase it. Sykosa is his debut novel.

Where to find him:

Justin will be giving away a $50 gift card to one randomly drawn commenter at the end of the tour so don't forget to follow the tour and comment!

Best Vacation Ever.

A few years ago, my buddy Jeff and I decided on a road trip from Seattle to his hometown, the silicon palace itself, Los Angeles. The first thing you have to know about Jeff and I is that we’re great friends, but ideologically different. When Jeff was young, his father sat him down and said, “Jeff, in this family, we’re Democrats and we’re atheists.” Conversely, I was raised attending Catholic services every Sunday, attending CCD (Community of Catholic Doctrine) classes, and my parents were about as big a fans of Ronald Reagan as a person can be before crossing over into the completely irrational. In life, I’ve distanced myself from the church, and ended up being politically moderate, but Jeff remained an unapologetic progressive, and he is an atheist.

Knowing this, perhaps you can understand how, shortly after setting off in a too-packed Mazda 3, a harmless five minute conversation about Guns n’ Roses long-awaited release Chinese Democracy morphed into a three-hour intellectual battle-royale over the ethical development and application of stem-cell research. There was shouting, insults, extremely liberal and lengthy use of profanity, which ended in a border city in Oregon, where Jeff had recruited some family members to put us up for the night. As we drove through this pitch black neighborhood, niether of us smart phone owners so we couldn’t GPS our way there, we found our destination, 615 Charlie St. Jeff’s family had promised to stay up until we arrived, so it was a bit odd that all the lights were off, but we hauled our way to the door, knocking loudly three of four times. We then proceeded to argue and joke with each other, then knock some more, and maybe we even shouted, “Open the door! Open the door!” Totally unaware, inside this house was not Jeff’s family, but a frightened old women who had been peeking through her curtains, terrified that these two huge men, one of whom only dresses in black, were about to break down her doors and murder her.

“Don’t you worry about me, dears. IMMA STAND MY GROUND!”

Turns out, there’s two 615 Charlie St addresses in this neighborhood.

Having put the fear of God in an old lady, and in several of the drivers who had to dodge our car when our arguing made our driving erratic, we were tired and happy to find the correct 615 Charlie St. Our next day is spent traveling through northern California, which is a mixture of anti-evolution signs saying, “Is someone trying to make a monkey out of you?” and cow farms that leave a methane stench so thick you’d swear lighting a cigarette would result in nuclear detonation. Reaching the Los Angeles city limits, I joke to Jeff, “You know, I’ve never experienced an earthquake before.” He joked back, “Well, they happen here all the time. You’ll get one, for sure.” Fifteen minutes later, we had lived through four earthquakes. (I kid you not). Slightly freaked, but excited, we turned in for the night, and over the next week, we did the whole of Los Angeles.

We visited the Santa Monica peer and saw its famous Ferris wheel. We stopped off in Studio City, Hollywood, and Brentwood to see the OJ Simpson/Nicole Brown Simpson murder condo. Beverly Hills was when the celebrity sightings started. Sandra Bullock was in a shop wearing big bug glasses, avoiding my gaze with tense shoulders like, “Oh my God, he thinks if he introduces himself I’ll fall in love with him…” and, at lunch, Sarah Jessica Parker walked right by us. We didn’t pay her much mind. She was clearly agitated by it, as she made a point to walk by us again for no good reason. She seemed quite satisfied when our heads turned. One of the most beautiful stop-offs was visiting Jeff’s father in Malibu. He lives at the top of a very large hill overlooking the ocean, (side note: they live above Mark Hamill, who played Luke Skywalker in Star Wars, so we drove by the place where Hamill wrecked his Ferrari and his face in the 1977.)

Beneath this backyard, sometime on January 11th, 1977, the force was not with Mark Hamill.

Jeff’s stepmother, Judith, also lives at this Malibu house. She found out that I’m a big Lakers fan. It so happened that the Lakers were about to start the Western Conference Finals, where they would attempt to reach the NBA Finals for the second straight year. Like some kind of dream, Judith, who spent her life doing something in the music industry so a bunch of seedy millionaires owe her favors to stave off the tell-all to end all tell-alls, had comped us tickets to 100 level seats for Game 1.

It was the best surprise a guy like me could get.

We set off for the Staples Center, where the Lakers play. It’s a modern arena surrounded by an ESPN Zone bar, some restaurants and a few shops. It’s also located in downtown Los Angeles, which being a major center city with tons of sky scrapers, my initial conception was that it’s a bit like the New York of the west coast—affluent, multi-cultural, unique. Turns out, it’s the exact opposite. During the day, this busy metropolis houses some of the biggest companies in the world, but at the first sign of dusk, its occupants flee like refugees do a crazed dictator. Downtown Los Angeles after sundown is so crime filled, so violent, and so ludicrously so that Artie Lange, a comedian from Howard Stern fame, once noted in his autobiography, Too Fat Too Fish, “[Downtown Los Angeles] is the kind of place where you can fire a bazooka and the cops wouldn’t know about it for three days.” I was a bit worried, as I wasn’t so confident I could survive a drive-by shooting like I could an earthquake, but the police presence for the game was dense enough to provide that safe, internment camp feel.

The stadium atmosphere was surreal, and informative as to the culture and drive of the area. Los Angeles’s big industry is show business—music, movies, tv, theater. If it involves a stage and an audience, this city has it in spades. It so happens the Lakers are also known as Showtime, so believe me, a Lakers game is more a three ring circus than a sporting event. At any given moment, thirty non-basketball related activities are going on. As well, the place is stuffed with A-list movie stars. When you find your seat, you’re feet away from Justin Timberlake. Denzel Washington gives you the “prepare to die, motherf***er,” look after you cut him off at the urinal. And when you sneeze, Dustin Hoffman says, “God bless you.” Jeff and I didn’t fully understand this, so imagine our surprise to find, when entering the 100 level in our Laker shirts and hats, we totally didn’t fit in. What was before us wasn’t a basketball audience, it was a club. A sea of mega-rich men, in sleek suits with tanned faces, who were trying to forget their wives, and that wasn’t difficult being surrounded by wannabe starlets who were all in five-inch heels with skirts so short it made the Laker Girls dance squad look like prudes. None of these people watched the game, they just mingled and socialized and moved about, and should they incidentally see a big play, they wouldn’t cheer unless it involved Kobe Bryant.

Imagine this, only the guys are scheezier and the women never stop checking their phones.

Speaking of Kobe, he ended the night with 40 points, 4 assists, and 6 rebounds. I left the stadium totally charged up, shouting, “Layyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy-KERS!” at the top of my lungs, tens of people around me chanting back. That said, Jeff and I didn’t linger. We made sure to be far away before the police packed up and we found ourselves kidnapped and enslaved to one of the city’s sweat shops (a real problem for Los Angeles).

On our final day, Jeff and I made our way to Six Flags Magic Mountain. (Don’t know what Magic Mountain is? Yes, you do! It’s Wally World from Chevy Chase’s Vacation. This is an interesting element to Los Angeles. Literally so many tv shows and movies are shot there that, if we air dropped you into the city with no clue as to where you were, it’d take three blocks before you’d say, “I recognize that from CSI! Am I in Los Angeles?”) Magic Mountain is the Cedar Point of the west coast. It’s got 10 or 12 roller coasters that’ll put the fear of God in you. It’s also way out there in Valencia, and because it was late May, which meant school was still in session, and it was a Wednesday, which meant kids should be there, Jeff and I figured we’d be able to do the rides quick and easy. It turned out to be Senior Day and the place is packed with maybe 40 school buses full of seventeen year old boys and girls. In the case of the girls, based on how underdressed their bodies were in correlation to how much make-up their faces wore, you’d swear they were at least nineteen or twenty year old coeds if they didn’t have braces and walk in that bow-legged way girls do before they finish puberty. If you want to feel like a pervert, try being a guy over twenty-five even standing coincidently near a pack of these girls.

Trust me, they’re not whispering about how cute you are.

We did the park, anyway. Standing in lines, pretending the kiddies weren’t there, and making Viper our first coaster. Like a pro, Jeff kept his video camera on for the whole ride. It had been a while since he’d last been on a coaster, and should you feel like some comedy (warning: if you are offended by the f-bomb, don’t watch the video. We’re not trying to be jerks, we’re terrified), you can watch Jeff and I losing it during the ride ( The day turned out awesome. We got most of the major coasters done, and we were debating heading home when I noticed a huge wall fashioned like a giant rock. I’ve seen it two or three times as we’ve crisscrossed the park, but it wasn’t until we stepped away from it that I saw the massive writing chiseled into it, spelling Goliath. It wasn’t only a big decorative wall, it was a ride, and as I read this, a pack of those teenage girls appeared from behind it. They were clearly shaken, as if their souls had been hollowed out, their perfect hair frazzled, and their pointer fingers frantically wiping under their eyelids, trying desperately not to run their make-up.
Five minutes later, another pack of girls exited like this.

Five after that, another pack.

We had to know what this ride was about. Come to find out, it’s got a fake wall because it was hiding its super-long line. In fact, it needed several fake walls, each making you think when you pass it, you’ll find yourself close to the ride itself. What felt like four hours later, we were loaded up onto a rather pedestrian appearing ride. I couldn’t understand why all these girls were acting so dramatic. The cart itself was kinda retro, really smoothed out, and the support bar holding you in place didn’t have shoulder restraints. There wasn’t even a place to grip your hands, how scary could it be? Two minutes and 235 feet in the air later, I discovered what terrified these girls. I was about to straight vertically drop, the angle so close to ninety that I couldn’t see any of the carts in front of me, and one-fourth of the way down, I discovered why they didn’t bother with hand grips. The centripetal force was so incredible, my hands were immobilized into my chest, which was probably for the best, as who knows what limbs I might’ve lost trying to stop my face from being ripped off.

It’s okay. The doctors fixed it.

I’d recall the rest of the ride for you, but I either blacked out or totally repressed it.

The next day, we took our satisfied selves back to Seattle, where we went back to work and back to normal life, in general. For the next week, I wrote several drafts of emails resigning my job, then got close to almost sending one while I sat around day-dreaming of running off to LA where I would become a big movie star, or failing that, a scheezy old guy dating gorgeous college drop-outs with no concept of reality. The desire was so intense it took several months for me to stop seriously considering it. It was one hell of a fine vacation, though, and I’d do it again in a heart beat.

In fact, I did.

Jeff and I did repeated whole thing the next year.

Hey! Justin Ordoñez wrote a book called Sykosa. It’s about a sixteen year old girl who’s trying to reclaim her identity after an act of violence destroys her life and the lives of her friends. You can find out more about Justin at his blog, You can also find Sykosa, the novel on Amazon.

Sykosa (that's "sy"-as-in-"my" ko-sa) is a sixteen-year-old girl trying to reclaim her identity after an act of violence shatters her life and the life of her friends. This process is complicated by her best friend, Niko, a hyper-ambitious, type-A personality who has started to war with other girls for social supremacy of their school, a prestigious preparatory academy in the Pacific Northwest of the United States. To compensate, Sykosa has decided to fall in love with her new boyfriend, Tom, who was involved in the act of violence. Propelled by survivor guilt, an anxiety disorder, and her hunger for Tom and his charms, Sykosa attends a weekend-long, unchaperoned party at Niko's posh vacation cottage, where she will finally confront Niko on their friendship, her indecision about her friends and their involvement in the act of violence, and she will make the biggest decision of her life—whether or not she wants to lose her virginity to Tom. YA fiction for the 18+ crowd.


Everything is too complicated. It should not have to be. She goes behind the chapel. He goes behind the chapel. They make out. Simple, right? It’s not. Regardless, if even that must be complicated, then certainly the concept that she wants to go to Prom, thus he should ask her to Prom and then they should go to Prom is simple, right? It’s not. You see, he has this best friend, this confidante, this main focus, this everything—and her name is not Sykosa, but Mackenzie.

Or as you will soon find out: “M.” That’s what he calls her.

So, every day, she faces the fact that they are merely acquaintances. Two pigeons in a flock of nine hundred who dress the same, talk the same, and act the same. That’s okay. Pigeons are only pigeons because conformity is only conformity. It’s okay to be like everyone else so long as she is always herself. And that is the reason, because there is no other reason, why she makes out with this boy. Other than she likes it. Kissing is fun. She’s lying. There is another reason. Another trivial teenage doodad—when she talks to him, lame as it sounds, she feels like she is being herself.

Tom’s never understood this. He sees no issue in how she feels like a phoenix, but is only regarded as a pigeon—and not only a pigeon, but one pigeon in a flock of… Never mind, conformity sucks!


"… gritty, intense and definitely not a book I'll forget anytime soon! It was so differently written. I wouldn't have expected to fall in love with the writing style but I did. It practically made me get under Sykosa's skin despite getting a dose of the perspectives of the other characters and there were parts that were so lyrical." ~ On Books

"Justin Ordonez’s debut novel, Sykosa Part 1: Junior Year, disproves the old saw that youth is wasted on the young. He adroitly delves into the minds and social lives of his titular sixteen-year-old protagonist and her peers, showing that young people wrestle with tough decisions just like adults do." ~Clarion ForeWord Reviews

"Sykosa makes for some compelling reading. Older teens and adults alike will enjoy Ordoñez's tale for its humor, realism and relatable protagonist."

~ Kirkus Indie Review

Friday, August 3, 2012

Friday Guest: Elizabeth Vallone

People ask, how did you come up with the idea for your book Barbarossa’s Princess? I believe  the universe demanded that I give Constance de Hauteville a voice after 1000 years.  Or maybe because my DNA test said I was a descendant of the Vikings as she was.

The actual catalyst that pushed me to put words on paper was a book called, Travels of a Medieval Queen.  It documented Constance’s journey from Sicily to Germany.  When I finished this book, I made the commitment to write my own novel giving an intimate portrait of Constance.   This portrayal allows readers to live in her world, feel her joys and disappointments, taste the foods, and enjoy the life of a medieval princess.  I also wanted the readers to experience the horror of the beauty treatments and medical practices of the time that she was subjected to.

I fell in love with the story of Constance de Hauteville and this love is reflected in my work.  I think the universe would be satisfied.


A tale of intrigue, violence, sex, love and ultimate triumph, Elizabeth Vallone’s Barbarossa’s Princess is also a tapestry of the customs of the Holy Roman Empire, the Norman-Sicilian Court and mores of life in the 12th century.

“Barbarossa’s Princess is a veritable page turner. From the very first line, we are swept away on an adventure through the corridors of power in the 12th century. We taste and smell the meals, we see the unusual medical practices, we hear all the raucous sounds of life in an age more refined and more coarse than even our own. At the center of this delightful tale is Constance de Hauteville, a woman drawn from a nunnery to become Empress of a continent. She becomes the bearer of the next Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. An innocent, along with her maid-servant, Constance enters the corridors of power and grows to become as forceful as those who would use her for their own gain. Vallone portrays Constance de Hauteville as a woman of chutzpah and humility, a mother who endures the humiliations of women in an earlier time, but who triumphs and endures”.

Patrick McGuire, Senior Lecturer of English. University of Wisconsin

Elizabeth P. Vallone graduated from Montclair State University and Long Island University with a B.A. and an M.A. respectively. Mrs. Vallone is a teacher and freelance writer. A contributing author to the anthologies Imprints on Rockland County History (1983) and Curragia: Writings of Italian-American Women (1998), Mrs. Vallone previously published Stone Perpendicular to Stone—A Tribute to the Land of My Ancestors, in 1997, and Beyond Bagheria, her first historical novel, in 2005. She resides in the lower Hudson Valley of New York with her husband.
Review by professional editor, Joyce Magee, Fort Lauderdale , Florida

Elizabeth Vallone’s Barbarossa’s Princess, a superbly researched historical novel, will transport readers to the milieu of the late Middle Ages and the intrigue of the court of the Holy Roman Empire. It begins in the middle of the drama, in the year 1194, as Sicilian Queen Constance, consort of Emperor Heinrich, is about to give birth publicly to an heir to the throne. Townspeople who will witness the birth are exceedingly curious to see whether a monstrous anti-Christ will emerge from the queen’s body, as predicted by a famous clairvoyant. From this scene of frenzied expectation, the narrative fills in the previous ten years via flashback, featuring scenes of love, cruelty, deception, violence, secrets and much more.

The third-person omniscient point of view alternates with first-person narration by Queen Constance, a technique that vividly illuminates the action while endearing the reader to the female protagonist’s inner self. At every step, Constance clearly articulates the thoughts and feelings of a woman who is manipulated and repressed by the politics of her era and, especially, the men who exert power over her.

Ms. Vallone provides authentic multi-sensory details that will transport readers to the 12th Century. Many elements, such as beauty and fertility treatments, obstetrical medicine, food, customs and other details about daily life of the time are factual. So are many of the characters, who truly come alive under the pen of Ms. Vallone.

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