Friday, April 7, 2017

Garden Photo Contest

The Carmel Valley Garden Club annual garden show is coming up in about a month, and this year they've added a new feature--a photography contest. Since OG gave me my wonderful new camera for Christmas, I've decided to enter a few of my photos--all taken from my own yard.

The contest includes five categories: landscape, wildlife, flowers, plants, and edibles. Each entrant is allowed to enter three photos. That's where you come in. I need help choosing my entries. I've already chosen my favorite landscape photo. I can't imagine I could top this one of a misty valley sunrise:
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Where I need help is choosing a flower photo and a wildlife photo. The wildlife entry is going to be the most challenging because we have so much fun wildlife here, and I've been lucky enough to capture a number of my favorite visitors on camera. Each photo is numbered, and I'd really like to hear which animal and which flower you like best. The entries will be printed in 8" x 10" format, and OG has volunteered to print them for me. Thanks for your help!
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Thursday, October 15, 2015

How to Build a Fairy Garden

I've wanted a fairy garden ever since I first saw one at my local garden center a couple of years ago, but I've been afraid to try it on my own. The display gardens used big (expensive!) planters that had been artistically broken to allow the garden to spill artistically down the side. I was sure I would shatter the (expensive!) pot if I tried that on my own, so I waited. And stewed. And wanted a fairy garden.

Imagine my delight when I saw a notice in the newspaper that the same garden center was offering a fairy garden workshop free to the public! I signed up immediately. I had a wonderful time and created an adorable mini garden, so I thought I'd share with you what I learned. It was very easy, so don't be afraid to try it yourself.


  1. Select your container. The owner/designer demonstrated on a big, broken pot. Key fact: the container arrived at the nursery already cracked or broken. He did NOT take a hammer to a perfectly good $700 planter. He showed us how to break out additional small pieces to use as steps or walls and how to reinforce cracks by using epoxy on the inside to stabilize them. I decided to play it safe and go with something small enough to get it home safely in my car. Even then, it was so heavy fully planted that OG had to lift it out for me. I chose this cute concrete planter in the shape of an old wicker suitcase. I love it! 
  2. Decide if your garden will live indoors or outdoors. It will affect your choice of container and plants. I wanted an outdoor garden for the deck. OG is in the process of building me a custom bench to hold it.
  3. Choose your accessories. This is harder than it sounds. The internet is full of wonderful fairies, houses, birdbaths, etc. The garden center also had a wonderful array. Everything is so cute, it's tempting to overpurchase. Don't. It's a garden after all. You want room for the plants, and the elements need to balance. I carted that heavy planter around the nursery on a cart and set the pieces in it to make sure my accessories fit the container and complimented each other. First, I chose the house.
    This little orange gourd house stole my heart. Next came the path, then the swing, and finally the bench.
    After the garden was complete, a dear friend sent me the garden shed, and happily, I had the perfect place for it!
     
  4. Choose your plants. I knew I wanted some tufty ground cover and a tiny tree, and the nursery designer helped me choose other sun-loving plants. I'm very happy with the final result. It's unique, quirky, and magical--just what a fairy garden should be!
  5. Fill the planter with potting soil, and decide on the placement of the accessories.
  6. Plant the plants.
  7. Settle the accessories into their final positions.
  8. Water thoroughly several times over the next few hours to soak the soil.
  9. Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

New Author Head Shots

I don't much enjoy having my picture taken. My eyes always look squinty. My smile is uneven. My neck is as wrinkled as an old paper bag. Those are my excuses, anyway. It couldn't possibly be because I don't look twenty-five anymore. At any rate, I hadn't had a new author photo taken in seven years and was long overdue. Cute new red glasses and an upcoming blog tour for my new book Small Town Christmas Tales also served as motivation. And it didn't hurt that my hair stylist is an amateur photographer who offered to take the photos for free.

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Yesterday afternoon, Heidi brought her camera over and click, click, click! We had lots of fun, and I now have several great head shots to choose from. I'm having a hard time picking a favorite, so I thought I'd ask your advice. Which of these would you choose?
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Monday, September 21, 2015

NEW RELEASE - Small Town Christmas Tales is Here!

I'm thrilled to announce the publication of my new collection of holiday short stories, Small Town Christmas Tales! It might be blistering hot in California right now, but all I have to do is look a this cover, and I feel a pleasant chill in the air.

For those of you in cooler climes, I invite you to light the fire, heat the cider, and lose yourself in this collection of ten short holiday romances. Each story is set in a different fictional small town, from coast to coast, Maine to California. Sometimes humorous, sometimes poignant, they're sure to warm your heart and put you in a holiday mood. Each story is like a mini TV Christmas movie, and sometimes we all need a little Christmas.

Small Town Christmas Tales: Ten Short Holiday Romances is available in paperback and ebook exclusively from Amazon. Click here to take a closer look.

Happy Holidays!

Monday, February 9, 2015

The Art of Texting by Guest Author Andrea Downing

A few years ago, while I was still living in London, my daughter Cristal and I returned to New York to visit family.  While chatting with my nephew, Cristal started to text her New York friends.  ‘Why text?’ my nephew asked.  ‘Why not just phone them?’  Well, why indeed?  The art of texting hadn’t as yet crossed The Pond and the use of this new facility was still a mystery to most.
So why and when did texting become the norm?  When did we throw out the quick call, ‘what do you want for dinner tonight?’ and substitute it with, ‘Wat u want 4 din 2nite?’  How did texting worm its insidious way into our lives to the extent that this year’s most popular word wasn’t even a word but the ‘heart’ emoji?  Does this spell the end of the English language as we know it?
Texting offers us the swift contact, the quick question and the fast answer, the ability to know our loved-one is all right, and the non-interruptive check on our offspring…assuming he or she answers. It offers the ability to multi-task, to talk in person with someone while texting yet another person. It now also offers the ability to send a photo showing exactly what we mean—what we’ve been describing—or where we are, the dress we’re trying on with the question, ‘do I look good in this?’ or the secretive shot of another person with, ‘can you believe it???’  As someone who travels a great deal, it also offers free contact; WhatsApp lets me have conversations and keep in touch with my daughter who lives abroad now, or with friends here in the USA when I’m traveling.
And texting has developed its own language, its own shorthand.  Can you remember a time before TTYL, BTW, and LOL?  In some ways, it’s good:  language is not a dead medium but an expanding one, able to absorb new abbreviations as well as new words.  Think “selfie.”  But on the other hand, are we letting language die by letting shorthand take over?
And what about the social implications?  In an episode of ‘Sex and the City’ some years back, the character of Carrie Bradshaw received a text from her then-boyfriend breaking up with her.  A text?  To break up?  What is the social etiquette of this?  If we use texts as a common form of communication, can it be acceptable to use it to replace the little note that said ‘I’m sorry but I don’t feel we’re right for each other anymore.’  On the other hand, if we use a text to say “I <3 u” is that all right?  Is something lost or is it something nice to carry around with you and look at the rest of the day?   In my new book, Dances of the Heart, one of my two heroes (yes, it’s a four-hander) uses texts…ahhh, but I’m not going to tell you how.  You’ll have to read the book to find out.  But for now, what do you think about texting?  Has it ruined the English language?  Is it a useful tool?  Or a pain in the backside?  Do you like receiving texts?  Or are they an invasion into your life?  I’d like to know!  TTYL!!
Andrea

What a fun post! Now let's learn a little about Andrea and her new book, Dances of the Heart.

Blurb:  Successful, workaholic author Carrie Bennett lives through her writing, but can’t succeed at writing a man into her life. Furthermore, her equally successful but cynical daughter, Paige, proves inconsolable after the death of her fiancĂ©.
        Hard-drinking rancher Ray Ryder can find humor in just about anything—except the loss of his oldest son. His younger son, Jake, recently returned from Iraq, now keeps a secret that could shatter his deceased brother’s good name.
        On one sultry night in Texas, relationships blossom when the four meet, starting a series of events that move from the dancehalls of Hill Country to the beach parties of East Hampton, and from the penthouses of New York to the backstreets of a Mexican border town. But the hurts of the past are hard to leave behind, especially when old adversaries threaten the fragile ties that bind family to family…and lover to lover.
Excerpt: Ray pointed to his pickup, smirking slightly with the knowledge of what her reaction would probably be.
“You must be joking.”
He could hardly hear the mumbled comment, but it was exactly what he’d been expecting.
She glowered, a brow definitively arched in query.  “What year is this thing?”
He attempted to wipe the amusement away from his face with a hand that rubbed his stubble in a satisfying scrape. “Sorry, I left the Cadillac at home this time.” A raised brow questioned if she took him seriously. “It’s an ’89, and still runs as smooth as the day I got it.”
“Which was, what? Last year?”
Ray shook his head and proceeded to the passenger door. “You have the key, sweetheart,” he said, patiently standing and waiting.
“Listen!” Carrie put her hands out as if to stop any further conversation. “First off, I am not your sweetheart. And second, if by any chance you think you just may have gotten lucky tonight--”
“Whoa, whoa now.” Ray was truly mystified at the turn events were taking. “Not that I wouldn’t be honored and damn well pleased, but I sure as heck wasn’t thinkin’ along those lines...and truth be told, you know, I’m hardly up to it.” He considered this for a second, a fog clearing for a moment’s view of the road. “And I don’t mean I need Viagra either.” He noted her staring at the key as if it might turn into something else. “No, it doesn’t open automatically,” he informed her at last.
She shoved the key into the handle and got the door open, climbed up into the cab and reached across to unlock the door for him. Her gaze ran over the dashboard, uncertainty scrunching her face like a bitter fruit.
Ray folded himself into the passenger seat and slouched back, tipping his hat over his eyes. “Just let me know when you give up. I’ll be right here, darl...” Yeah, better not. He could almost feel her indignation, listening as she squirmed around and adjusted the seat.
“It’ll be a cold day in hell, mister, before I give up!” The key turned and the truck sputtered to life, then died again.
“You ever drive manual before?” he mumbled from under his Stetson, and sensed Carrie eyeing him. “That’s what I thought,” he answered to her lack of response. “Put your foot on the clutch, move her into first, release the brake, and get goin’, slowly releasing the clutch.”
“Who the hell drives stick shift anymore?” she muttered as she followed his terse instructions. The truck lurched forward as she spun it off the grass toward the road.
“Right,” Ray directed, feeling suddenly nauseous with the pitch of the car. Bile rising, he opened the door and spat before yanking it shut again. “Can you get the damn thing into second? Foot on the clutch, move the shift and let’s go if we’re going.”
“Fine! You don’t have to yell at me.”
Ray sat up, shoved his hat back from his eyes and glared at her, reining in his frustration and anger. “I was not yelling at you, but you know dang well we’d be far safer with me drivin’. As it is, I’m gonna need a new transmission.”
The truck staggered again. “I know no such thing.” She bent forward to swipe at the windscreen to clear it. “We haven’t got seatbelts on,” she murmured.
“We’re not going fast enough to need them.”
Carrie ignored his last remark and appeared to concentrate on keeping the truck moving. It sputtered again, and Ray let out a sigh of resignation just as flashing blue lights appeared in the side mirror. She pulled over, and the motor unceremoniously died.
“Damn!” she cursed, reaching down for her bag at Ray’s feet. “Let me get my license.”

To get your copy of Dances of the Heart:
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Dances-Heart-Andrea-Downing-ebook/dp/B00S46BGY6/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1421510959&sr=8-2&keywords=Dances+of+the+Heart
The Wild Rose Press: http://www.wildrosepub: http://www.amazon.com/Dances-Heart-Andrea-Downing-ebook/dp/B00S46BGY6/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1421510959&sr=8-2&keywords=Dances+of+the+Heartlishing.com/maincatalog_v151/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=195&products_id=6060

Bio: Andrea Downing likes to say that when she decided to do a Masters Degree, she made the mistake of turning left out of New York, where she was born, instead of right to the west, and ended up in the UK.   She eventually married there, raising a beautiful daughter and staying for longer than she cares to admit.  Teaching, editing a poetry magazine, writing travel articles, and a short stint in Nigeria filled those years until in 2008 she returned to NYC.  She now divides her time between the city and the shore, and often trades the canyons of New York for the wide open spaces of Wyoming.  Family vacations are often out west and, to date, she and her daughter have been to some 20 ranches throughout the west.  Loveland, her first book, was a finalist for Best American Historical at the 2013 RONE Awards.  Lawless Love, a short story, part of The Wild Rose Press ‘Lawmen and Outlaws’ series, was a finalist for Best Historical Novella at the RONE Awards and placed in the 2014 International Digital Awards Historical Short contest.   Dearest Darling, a novella, is part of The Wild Rose Press Love Letters series, and came out Oct. 8th, 2014, and Dances of the Heart, her first contemporary novel, comes out in February, 2015.

You can interact with Andrea on the web!
WEBSITE AND BLOG:  http://andreadowning.com
Twitter:  @andidowning  https://twitter.com/AndiDowning
AMAZON AUTHOR PAGE:  http://www.amazon.com/Andrea-Downing/e/B008MQ0NXS/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0

Thursday, January 8, 2015

New Release– End of Lonely Street by Alicia Dean – Plus an Awesome Giveaway

Please join me today in welcoming my good friend, author Alicia Dean. She has a brand new release and an awesome giveaway. Take it away, Alicia!

Amazon Buy Link: http://amzn.com/B00QQO3BK0

I’m excited to share my latest release from The Wild Rose Press on what would have been Elvis’ eightieth birthday. ‘End of Lonely Street’ is a Vintage Romance Short Story set in 1957, in the era when Elvis first burst on the scene. Like my heroine in the story, I am a diehard Elvis fan. (As you probably figured out, I took the title from a line in Heartbreak Hotel, which was Elvis’ first million-selling record).

Check out End of Lonely Street and enter to win GREAT prizes…

Blurb:
Can she let go of the past, before it destroys her future?

All Toby Lawson wanted was to go to college to pursue her dream of becoming a teacher and to be free of her alcoholic mother and the painful memories of finding her and the guy Toby loved kissing. But when her mother nearly burns the house down, Toby must put her dreams on hold and return home to care for her. The only time she isn’t lonely and miserable is when she’s listening to her heartthrob, Elvis Presley. His music takes her away, helps her escape from everything wrong in her life.

Noah Rivers has always loved Toby, but no matter what he says, and even though she knows her mother initiated the kiss, and that he didn’t kiss her back, she can‘t seem to get past what happened. He soon realizes that the true problem lies in Toby’s belief that she’s not good enough for him and in her fear that she will be just like her mother.

What will it take to prove to her that she deserves to be happy, and that he would give anything to be the man to make her dreams come true?

Excerpt:

Chapter One
Mapleton, Tennessee, November, 1957

     Toby Lawson closed her eyes and shut out all sounds of the diner, except for Elvis Presley’s voice. He was crooning about how she was the only one for him…no matter where he went or what he did… he’d spend his whole life loving her…
     Rough hands landed on her waist and shattered the fantasy. She caught a whiff of hair tonic and too much cologne, and she snapped her eyes open. Wes Markham’s hateful face replaced the image of Elvis’ beautiful, crooked smile and smoldering blue eyes.
     “Let me go.” She gritted her teeth, keeping her voice low. If her boss, Mr. Winstead, knew there was trouble on account of her, he’d explode. He’d barely let her have the job in the first place. Everyone in Mapleton knew the Lawson women were trouble.
     “Come on, honey. If you like that hip swivel, Presley ain’t the only one who’s got it. I got it too.” He released her with his left hand so he could run it over his slicked down hair and gave her a big-toothed, wolfish smile. “Only we’d be naked.” He shot a cocky grin over to his two companions—Chuck Stenson and Billy Garfield—who were leaning against the jukebox making kissing and whooping sounds.
     Toby gripped his right wrist with one hand, tightening her hold on the utensils she held in the other. “I said let me go. Now!”
     “Aw, be a sport, Green-Eyes.”
     The bulge of his pelvis pressed into her abdomen, and she gasped in shock. Nausea tightened in her esophagus. “Wes Markham, I’m warning you…”
     She shoved against him, but he didn’t budge.
He pulled her tighter. “Your momma’s a whole lot friendlier than you are. They say the apple don’t fall far from the tree, so how’s about you cut the pretense and we go someplace quiet? Winstead won’t miss you for a few minutes.”
     Her cheeks heated. She didn’t dare look around. No doubt the customers were watching, listening. Elvis had stopped singing and everyone in the place could hear what he’d said about her mother. It wasn’t like they didn’t all know, though. Constance Lawson hadn’t exactly kept her escapades a secret.
     Toby clenched her teeth and brandished the utensils. She spoke loud enough for everyone to hear. “Release me this instant, or I swear, you’ll be pulling this steak knife out of your eyeball.”
     He held her gaze for a split second, then gave a laugh that was somewhere between nervous and furious. “Sure, sure. Okay.” He released her and stepped back. “I was just foolin’ around anyway. I got better things to do with my time than waste it on a used up chick like you.”
Muffled laughter rose around her. Oh God, she could crawl into a hole.
     “How about you apologize to the lady, then beat it?”
     Toby whirled at the male voice. Noah Rivers stood behind her, looking handsome and sharp in his police uniform—even with his dark hair in the military buzz cut. Her knees weakened, and tingles swept over her skin. She swallowed against the sudden dryness in her throat. She’d heard he was back, but hadn’t seen him until now. And what a time to have a reunion.

*** 10% of all of Alicia Dean’s net royalties for End of Lonely Street will go to
The Elvis Presley Charitable Foundation http://www.graceland.com/epcf/  ***

Alicia Dean lives in Edmond, Oklahoma. She has three grown children and a huge network of supportive friends and family. She writes mostly contemporary suspense and paranormal, but has also written in other genres, including a few vintage historicals.

Other than reading and writing, her passions are Elvis Presley, MLB, NFL (she usually works in a mention of one or all three into her stories) and watching her favorite televisions shows like Vampire Diaries, Justified, Sons of Anarchy, Haven, The Mindy Project, and Dexter (even though it has sadly ended, she will forever be a fan). Some of her favorite authors are Michael Connelly, Dennis Lehane, Lee Child, Lisa Gardner, Sharon Sala, Jordan Dane, Ridley Pearson, Joseph Finder, and Jonathan Kellerman…to name a few.

Find Alicia here:

And now for the part you've all been waiting for: THE GIVEAWAY! - Entries accepted from January 8, 2015 through noon on January 22, 2015

Three prizes –

Elvis Gift Basket including DVD, CD, plus more
$25 Amazon Gift Card
$10 Amazon Gift Card

First place winner has first choice, second place winner has second choice, third place winner receives remaining prize.
   
To enter, just go to Alicia's blog! http://aliciadean.com/alicias-blog/

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Christmas Covers

I don't know about you, but I'm definitely in a Christmas mood these days. Last year, our decorations were all in storage because the new house wasn't finished, and we flew to Chicago to spend the holiday with our daughter. This year I've decorated to the nines and we'll all be home for Christmas, even though home is in a new house in a different state. I'm surprised that the lack of snow hasn't dampened my spirit, but it hasn't.

If you're a romance reader or writer, the season is all around you, too. Every time you turn around (or open Facebook) there are wonderful new holiday books. Their beautiful, festive covers are enough to turn even Scrooge into a hopeless romantic.

Unlike most writers, who work on their Christmas books during the spring or summer, I decided to write one when the spirit was most upon me - right now! I'm about half-way through my current project, a collection of ten holiday short stories (4K-5K words each) that I plan to release right after Halloween, 2015. It's great fun and has definitely added to my enjoyment of the season.

This collection was inspired by the stories I've written each December for the past few years for the Roses of Prose blog, of which I'm a member. If you missed my story this year, you can check it out here

If you know me or follow this blog, you know I also enjoy designing covers for my own books, as well as for other writers. The visual creativity of cover design offers a welcome break from the verbal creativity of writing. I've also found that having the perfect cover inspires me to work on the project. It's a win/win all the way.

Here are four potential mock-ups for covers for my short story collection. Like the rest of my work, these stories are warm-hearted and often humorous. Each is set in a different fictional small town across the country. I'd love to hear which is your favorite and why.

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