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Resolutions-time to make 'em

I've been down and out with a nasty bug this week (yeah, I know, Merry Christmas to me!) so this is going to be short and sweet.

It's that time of year where we all start thinking out resolutions. The good, the bad, the ugly...they come back every year. And typically the same ones: I'm going to grow 6 inches so my weight matches my height. I'm going to work out every day. I'm going to eat right, get a promotion, go on a fabulous trip...something. Something wonderful.

Well, this year I decided on a resolution as I was digging through the thousands of photos I've taken looking for a family pic to use on our Christmas card.  I found one. ONE. That's it.
How about a pic with just me and the Hubs? Again, one. Ok, there were about a zillion pics of that one pose thanks to my friend holding down the shutter button on the camera, but what equated to one picture.

So, this year, I'm vowing to get more family photos and more pics of me with my guys. Essentially, I will be in more pictures.

How about you? Any resolutions, no matter how small?

I wish you all a fabulous New Year!!

Christmas prep in full swing!

I don't know about all of you, but Christmas prep is in full swing at my house. And by that I mean I've cut back on a lot of what I typically do to decorate because, "How is it already the week of Christmas?!" has hit me big time.

So, the basics...the tree is up:

I'm doing what I can to keep the cat out of the tree:

And I've baked some cookies. Mine don't look nearly this nice.

But, when it all comes down to it, I just can't wait to spend some quality time with my guys later this week.

How about you? Are you all ready for the holiday celebrations? Or are you still circling the mall looking for parking?


Remember When?

Do you remember the first time you saw things in public that you were sure your mom would flip out about, but she didn't?

I remember giggling over the National Geographic magazine showing the tribal people of some distant land, painted, pierced and delightfully, disgustingly, nude. Then having that same magazine arrive at our house in the mail. I kept waiting for my mother to throw her hands in the air and declare the whole thing dreadful before tossing that publication in the trash bin, muttering about decency and propriety the whole while.

Much to my surprise, she didn't. Instead she read the whole thing and even discussed parts of it with my father. Over dinner! (Oh the horror)

Well, this weekend, my youngest son had such an experience. Hubs and I took the boys to Buca di Beppo after finishing the last of our shopping. Anyone who has been to Buca knows of their over the top Italian decor and I didn't think anything of it.

Right up until Alex motioned me to his side, eyes wide as saucers. I was a bit concerned that he'd hurt himself somehow, so was woefully unprepared when his stage whisper of, "That statue has privates!!" reached my ears.  I turned and spotted a small replica of The David tucked in an alcove behind me. Turning back I assured him it was supposed to be like that. "But why?" Because it's art.

And I completely lost it when he muttered, completely disgruntled, "Well, it's art when you tell me to put my shorts back on too."

I've really got to get him to a museum.


WINNER of the Angel Nicholas giveaway!

Congratulations to ALISON, the winner (drawn from random name picker thing) of 

Thank you so much to everyone to stopped by to comment. Don't forget that you can purchase the book at all major retailers now.

Thanks again Angel and Congratulations ALISON!! 


Introducing Angel Nicholas and her debut novel SWEET DECEPTION and GIVEAWAY!

I'd like everyone to meet Angel. We met a couple of years ago through Facebook believe it or not. I can't exactly remember the details, but before I knew it I'd connected with a kindred spirit from the next state over. Isn't the internet fun?

And I am THRILLED to announce her debut release SWEET DECEPTION, which is available now. 

I've asked Angel to stop by and answer some FAQ so everyone can get to know her and get a taste of her new book. One lucky person will be gifted a copy of SWEET DECEPTION, to be drawn on Friday, December 12 at 12:30pm PST. 

Now to be all official....

The only girl in the midst of four brothers, Angel Nicholas spent her childhood hiding behind romance novels. Now the mother of four overly-energetic children, a Whimsy kitty and slobber-flinging Great Dane, fiction is still her refuge. Excessive caffeine fuels her typing, stiletto heels maintain her sass, and the splendors of Idaho alongside its gregarious people inspire her muse.

Find Angel on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Goodreads, and on her website! You can also favorite her Amazon Author Page to receive emails when new books are available!

Here's the back copy blurb for the book:

Ally Thompson’s life is perfect. Calm, quiet, some might even say boring. The sole survivor of a tragic accident, she’s not the adventurous type—something she’s decided to change.

One roller-coaster ride…
A murder and a detective in disguise shatter Ally’s first attempt at “fun.” Detective Greg Marsing is everything Ally knows better than to want. The gun-totting, tattooed scumbags trying to kill her are almost a welcome distraction from her pointless attraction.

Blows her world wide open…
A contract on Ally has every lowlife for miles gunning for her. Sparks fly while she and her unlikely hero scramble to unravel clues. As the deadly game escalates, Greg has to decide if self-preservation rates higher than a love worth dying for.

FAQ by Angel:

Have you always been a writer, or is there a pivotal moment that started you on your journey?

I’ve been a writer for as long as I can remember. Writing was how I expressed all my teenage angst. I have a folder full of dark prose and weepy poetry! There was a long period where I set it aside, however. Instead of pursuing my dream of becoming a freelance photojournalist after high school, I pursued life. Children came along. Who knew the little darlings were so distracting? I found hobby after hobby to occupy myself with as they grew—in number and years. Then one night I had a dream so vivid that it would not leave me alone. So I sat down at the computer I used to maintain my then husband’s business and began writing. And wrote and wrote and wrote. I was like a woman obsessed. It started out horrid and was writing completely wrong, but I kept writing. I finished that story, and moved on to another. Then another. In the process, I educated myself about writing and the publishing industry. I’ve always believed that anything worth doing is worth doing right. Four and a half years later, here I am. I must have done one or two things right, don’t you think? ;-)

What is your favorite thing about being a writer?

The marabou slippers, feather boas, bon bons, and pink champagne of course, dahling!

Oh, you were being serious? Hmm… I have always enjoyed the ability to create something from nothing, whether I was doing heirloom sewing or knitting or anything else. Writing is an extension of that. You sit down to a blank screen and you weave this intricate story. You create real people out of thin air, breathe life into them, and send them on this incredible journey that gives them even more depth. Then you send it out into the world, and pray it moves people just a little. It’s truly the most incredible thing I’ve ever done, aside from giving birth to and raising my munchkins.

Do you prefer dogs, cats, or none of the above?

Ha! More like ALL of the above! I’m an animal lover to the core. I currently have three cats, which was unintentional, I swear. I’m no longer allowed anywhere near the Humane Society for fear I’ll come home with more. Home feels wrong without a dog though! Rental properties are oddly against their renters owning 170 pound Great Danes. I think it’s an unfair restriction, personally. An ill-behaved dog is destructive no matter their size. So the Dane is still with the ex-husband at the ex-house. I miss him desperately.

Last question:  Do you have any shameless addictions—Starbucks, shoes, sunglasses, coins, books?

*snort* Everyone who knows me is well-aware of my addictions! Coffee, ridiculously high heels, and books. I’m not the least bit shy about indulging or sharing. I’m less vocal about things like my enjoyment of excellent food and fine weaponry of any kind.

Thank you so much for having me on your blog today, Carmen! You’re a doll! If you don’t mind, I’ll say farewell by giving your readers a taste of my new release, Sweet Deception. Hugs & kisses!!


Oh, God! He was shooting at her. Actually shooting. In broad daylight. In her neighbor’s backyard. Didn’t they have rules about that sort of stuff?

Nerves shredded, Ally gritted her teeth. Three more feet. Two. Another crunch. She swore the heat of the bullet singed her shoulder. Arms extended, she jumped for all she was worth. Up, braced her arms and pushed off. She landed with an oomph on the other side, followed by another crunch and a hole in the wood fence.

For a split-second, she crouched panting, staring in disbelief at the fence towering over her head. Had she really done that?

Cursing from the other side got her up and moving again. Squealing tires and a revving engine brought her head around. A car tore into the alley and raced toward her. More bad guys? Had he called in reinforcements?

Ally froze.      

Did I do something horrible in a past life to deserve this?

Truly, I’ll help the poor. Serve food at the soup kitchen. Go to church every Sunday. Donate money to the shelter. I’ll even babysit my friend’s bratty kids.

Just please, please, please get me out of this alive.

The shiny black Camaro careened to a stop with the driver’s side door facing her. Heavily tinted windows revealed nothing. In a last desperate bid for freedom, she darted past the door. Strong arms encircled her waist and dragged her back toward the idling car.
“No!” Ally screamed like a banshee, flinging out her arms and legs, scrabbling for purchase. Hard hands sent her flying across the front seat.


“Let me go!” She dove for the door handle.

“Ally!” He grabbed her elbow and pulled her back, away from the passenger door. “Damn woman, you are way more trouble than you’re worth.”

Almost blind with panic, she twisted around and crouched on the seat, prepared to draw blood.

Shocked hazel clashed with furious aqua. Her mouth fell open. Muttering under his breath, Detective Marsing threw the car into gear and spun out of the alleyway. She whipped her head around in time to see a blocky head pop up over the privacy fence as they disappeared around the corner. She’d done it. Escaped. Stayed alive. Like an atomic bomb, the events of the past hours and the emotions she’d worked so hard to control mushroomed up, exploding inside. Tears stung.

“Can’t you stay out of trouble for five minutes?”

BUY LINKS:  Amazon    Barnes & Nobles    Google play    Kobo    iTunes


Prepping for our Thanksgiving

The US is celebrating Thanksgiving next week, which in my house means two things. Food & Football. 

I grew up in a pretty traditional family full of girls, so there was no football. Just a lot of fancy table settings and us being expected to behave like ladies and remember our social graces. I can hear my sister groaning from here as I type those two phrases.

I still like a nice table setting...but not so full that there's nowhere for the food to go. I mean, where's the food?? How can you pass the potatoes if they're still in the kitchen? But, I admit, it looks lovely.

And then there's the food. Enough to feed the neighborhood--or the addition of the random single guy Hubs works with that doesn't have family in the area that finds his way to our table--and have some left overs as well. Because there's nothing better than Thanksgiving left overs. 

But now that the boys are old enough to voice their opinions, they've let me know they don't like green bean casseroles. (My mother-in-law still refuses to believe this.) They also aren't big fans of pie. (Go ahead, I'll wait while you all gasp in horror.) So this year when I was making the menu I made sure I had the traditional basics of turkey, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, along with some of the non-traditional favorites of my family: butternut squash risotto, roasted carrots and parsnips and for dessert, strawberry shortcakes.

There will be plenty of laughter while we run around the yard playing our own version of touch football while we wait for the food to finish cooking and after we come back in I'm sure the guys will be cheering on their favorite NFL teams in their games. 

We have a small family, but it's rich with our own special traditions and I love the fact that my boys look forward to this holiday every year. 

What are some of your Thanksgiving traditions? Do you do it up big, with a huge extended family gathering, or keep it simple? And, since we won't have pie this year...tell me your favorite. I'll be living vicariously through you all.


Movie Marathons

I had planned a different post for this morning but changed my mind at the last minute.

My boys had a movie marathon this week. It was fabulous.

Much better than the movie marathons from a few years ago.

Although I never mind when Hubs puts on the movies of his choice either.

So, how about you? If you are sitting down for a movie marathon, what would you pick?


More Swag for the Bag 2014

We've talked about the challenge on finding swag ideas that will catch the eye. And, with more and more conferences going toward "paper-less" swag, it's becoming increasingly challenging to continue to come up with new ideas.

Last week I attended the Emerald City Writers' Conference, sponsored by the Greater Seattle Romance Writers of America--my home chapter of RWA. For the past 4-5 years we've had a paperless swag policy for our bags. We still offer a place (typically a table in the writer's lounge, then a table outside the ballroom during the book fair, when we invite the public to come join us for fun), to put out the paper swag items. (By paper I mean book marks, cover flats, business cards, etc.)  The exception to our paperless rule are things like bound book excerpts, a postcard that offers a free book download or pretty much has to be more than just the paper product.

When I arrived home from ECWC I received a box from the wonderful Cora Cade, so sent me some of the swag items she's been collecting at various conferences and reader events over the year. When I set everything out to go through the loot, I knew I had to create another blog post, because this group of items was much different than the last. Very few paper products and a lot of really great ideas!

So, let's dive in.

Again, just like last time, I set everything out on the coffee table and just went through grabbing items that caught my eye. It was obvious, right from the start, that it probably wouldn't be financially feasible to offer some of these things by the hundreds for the swag bags at various conferences. But, as ideas for street teams or some VIP readers (selected however you wish) there are some very very cool items.

After I took this group photo I realized that some of the items on the table are actually a couple of my birthday gifts, so I didn't photograph them up close. If you see something that you want more info on that I didn't highlight, let me know and I'll be happy to share the item with you.

So, there's the loot. Notice anything different about this selection? First off, it's much less cluttered than the last time I did this. Hardly any paper. I love it.

Since there are so few paper items I went to those things first: Two calendars. For full disclosure, only one was in our swag bag, the other I received at the Killion Group workshop -after a mock photo shoot with model Harvey, so I had to have him autograph it for me.

These are really great, fun ideas. They include various covers on each month. You could easily get together with a few author friends (depending on how many months you want to 'own' for the calendar) and put something like this together for cross promotion too and be able to offer it on a wider audience with the shared cost. I fully admit that I haven't checked out the cost of these things, but I also wonder about doing smaller pocket/purse calendars. Similar idea, but smaller size might make it more cost effective or easier to ship.

 RT Magazine sent ECWC enough copies to fill the bag, which is a fun filler and there weren't that many booklets offered this year. It's always hard to know who is doing what, but offering these excerpt booklets are a great way to offer readers a chance to try out a new author. And, like with the calendars, you don't have to do it on your own. You can join forces with a few other authors you know to help with cross promotion. AND, if you are a e-book author (whether indie or small pub, whatever) and want to participate in book fairs or reader event but aren't comfortable sitting at a table without any product, these are GREAT ways to engage and hook new readers.

Always the most popular items in any swag bags are books. Always. Don't be afraid to ask your publisher to send your books for the bags of various conferences you are attending or than you plan to attend but want a presence. They may not send enough to have one in every bag, but chances are they will be more than happy to send some of your books.

Or, if you have left over books from various promotions or author copies, whatever. Check the RWR to see if there are any conferences coming up that you want to send your items to.

Since we're still on the paper-ish items, I'll point out the coupon for a local restaurant near the conference hotel and the notebooks that were in the bags. Nothing too earth shattering, but cute, fun items that will get your name in front of the attendees. But, I'll point out that the only author name I see here is Erin Nicholas. At first glance, I couldn't tell you who offered up the other two notebooks. The black one is now in my purse and the cupcake one has been claimed by my kid, so I doubt I'll find out. Don't be afraid to put your name on things. If you're buying up some generic over the counter items, try to figure out a way to get your name on them, whether by a sticker or some other way. I want to know your name so when I meet you at the conference I can thank you. Seriously.

Some of the goodies at ECWC this year were necklaces that were given to conference volunteers. Nicolette Reed has hers in the bags for everyone. Let me tell you, it was SO FUN to see attendees wearing these items along with their lanyards and name badges all weekend. How much fun would it be to see your book cover on one of these? Or if you have a tagline that your die hard readers identify with?

And, speaking of lanyards...check out what the wonderful Merien Grey made for the committee members of ECWC. As I was looking at them I realized, they probably didn't take a ton of time to make and they really can set a group apart. Is your street team planning on attending RT? How about investing a little time to make them a lanyard so they'll be instantly recognizable?

Or what about giving these out to people who make a purchase of your books at a book fair? I've said it before, but I'll say it again: Readers like to feel special. Heck, everyone likes to feel special. Offering a nice one of a kind type item is a great way to win someone over. If you don't have the skill set to make this yourself, I'd bet money that you know someone who would be willing to help you out for a nominal fee or advanced read or something (depending on their role in your world).

This post is going to be really long, so I'm going to start throwing things out there a little faster without offering quite so much commentary. Or I'm going to try...we'll see how it goes:

Pens and pencils

A great, inexpensive cup with a clear brand. This is awesome and is sitting on my desk holding pens and pencils, so I'll be looking at it every day.

A magnetic clip. Again, clearly marked with the author's name, so I don't have any question who offered it up and I'll be seeing her name regularly as I use this. I don't know about the rest of you, but I can never seem to have enough of these clips on my fridge holding kid's art, notices from the school, reminders, etc.

Chapstick, again clearly marked. I admit that I'm always hesitant to use the chapstick and things that I get in swag bags, but I know there are several people that really love them. The exception I will make is if it is very obviously sealed.

Another example of sharing some of the swag is this cozy. Each author had their information on one side of the cozy. Just by looking at them I can tell both write Westerns, but that's about all I know for sure. The fact that both websites are clearly marked and the style of each side is similar makes this look very professional. 

There were a couple of very cool items in this group of swag that I need to highlight:

This cup & spoon from Crista McHugh is awesome. It has her tagline, which isn't so series or romance specific that my husband wouldn't use the mug, which is a good thing because it's the one item that he zeroed right in on and claimed for himself. 

Another is this little grooming kit. At first, I had no idea what it was and called my ten-year-old over to open it while I continued to photograph the other items waiting for attention. When he got it open he exclaimed how cool it was and I have to agree. It's a keychain, so I can put it on my keys if I want, or just put it in the car or my purse. 

That's the bulk of what I have this time. What do you think? Anything strike inspiration for you? Something you want to get a closer look at?

I need to give a very special shout out to Cora Cade for sending me some swag to highlight...and I'm going to show her items here:
There are a few more days of this sale if you're interested. 

And, I'm so thrilled to recieve this item and will be using it. A lot! This would be another fabulous 
idea for street teams:

And, now I'll show you my swag, which I gave away at my workshop at ECWC. Since my books aren't out yet, I'm not really selling anything but getting my name out there and in front of people. I so appreciated everyone who came out to the workshop and hope you all had as much fun as I did and that you like the goodies. 

If you see anything on the table I didn't highlight, please let me know, I'll be happy to dig it out and give it a shout. But, really, this was so much fun to go through and get more ideas for possible swag items. I hope it sparks a bit of inspiration for all of you! Thanks for stopping by!


Conference game plan

I'm prepping for the Emerald City Writers' Conference, which will be happening this weekend at the Westin in Bellevue Washington. Last year I was the conference chair, so ran around quite a bit putting out fires and managing little details with the hope that none of the attendees would noting any of the snags we encountered.

This year I'll be giving a workshop. Get Out of Your Own Way: An Introverts Guide to Interpersonal Relationships. It's a crazy huge title, but basically I'm going to be breaking down the various interpersonal relationships that you, as a writer, want to develop and assist in making a plan in how to do it. To start, there are professional contacts, fellow writers, bloggers, and readers. And there are all sorts of ways that you can encounter these people. One of the areas I'll be focusing on is conferences. Sort of makes sense since we'll be at one, right?

Last year I had several people approach me to tell me they could 'never' do what I did. That getting up and talking in front of three hundred attendees would send them into vapors. That speaking to their favorite author is terrifying. Forget sitting with an acquiring editor at dinner. We're not supposed to pitch to them, so what would we talk about? eek!

First, take a deep breath. Next, straighten your spine and dive in. I know that's not the hand holding, flowers and rainbows advice that some people want, but it's what you have to do. You can help yourself by preparing. Hone your elevator pitch--you know, that small, thirty second bit you can rattle off any time someone asks you what you write? That. Because the first time someone asked me what I wrote, I froze. Seriously, what did they mean? I'm at a writing conference. A ROMANCE writing conference at that, so that can't possibly be what they mean, right? So, the first thing that came to me? "I write words. On a good day, lots of them."

*forehead smack*

But, the ice was broken. So, my first bit of unsolicited advice is to prepare. Work on your small talk, practice your pitch and prepare your game face. Because when it comes to conference, you have to be social to a degree.

If you'll be at ECWC this year, I'd love to see you. Please be sure to stop by and say hello. And if you'd like more tips, be sure to attend my workshop, Friday afternoon.

Hope to see you all there!