Monday, January 30, 2012

Why Reader Reviews Matter

I was riding high a few months back, enjoying lots of five star reader reviews on Amazon for Employee Relations. I didn't really think much about it, but I was totally jazzed that so many readers were enjoying the book. Then came an awful, one star review. The person said the story sucked, she despised the characters  and I was a terrible person for writing it. (Okay, maybe I am exaggerating a little, but it was pretty bad.)

I was dejected. Forget that the vast majority of those who'd bothered to write a review had given the book glowing recommendations, what stuck with me was that one person hated it.

But when I checked a few days later, another great review showed up. The reader said she was so glad she didn't listen to the previous reviewer because she absolutely loved the book. It was then I realized how much reader reviews influence purchases.

Another of my Kindle books had a single review at the time. The reader said that she didn't normally buy books without any reviews, but was glad she decided to take a chance. That got me thinking, too. Not only do good and bad reviews influence purchases, but so does the absence of reviews.

What do you think? Do reader reviews influence what books you buy? Do you leave reviews for books you purchased online? I'm starting to do more and more of them. Why? They matter.

Friday, January 27, 2012


I'm going to lt you in on a little secret. I love writing about cop heroes! (See GOOD COP, BAD GIRL; PROTECTIVE CUSTODY; THE CUTLER BROTHERS SERIES, SAMANTHA and the DETECTIVE!) There's just something about a man in uniform, I guess. Especially the ones who come with their own handcuffs!

So, to embrace that, I'm starting a new series called THE BADGE BUNNIES SERIES. It's all about women who have a thing for hot and sexy cops, and the first book is called SEDUCING OFFICER BARLOWE.

Happy Reading!

Gotta Love a Guy Who Comes with His Own Handcuffs!

Harley Miller has always fantasized about having sex with a cop. So, when hunky Royce Barlowe comes to her rescue after her car breaks down, she can't resist flirting with him. One thing leads to another and soon she's kissing him.

Going further than that right there on the side of the road is crazy and impulsive, not to mention reckless, but neither one can help themselves and soon he's cuffing her hands behind her back and fulfilling her wildest fantasy - which turns out to be hotter than anything she's ever imagined.


“I have a confession to make, Officer,” she said softly.

He drew her bottom lip into his mouth and sucked on it. “Is it something I’m going to have to arrest you for?”

An image of him pushing her up against the wall and frisking her popped into her head, and she stifled a moan as her pussy spasmed. “I don’t know.” She trailed her fingers down his abs to caress his belt. “Is fantasizing about having sex with a hot cop a crime? Because I’ve fantasized about it for a long time.”

Officer Barlowe’s eyes took on a deliciously dangerous glint. But instead of kissing her again like she’d thought he would—or even unbuckling his belt and pushing down his pants so he could slip that magnificent cock of his in her pussy—he lifted her down from the car’s hood and spun her around.

Harley threw him a confused look over her shoulder. “What are you doing?”

His sensuous mouth quirked. “Playing into your fantasy.”

She opened her mouth to ask how he intended to do that, but all that came out was a soft, “Mmm,” as he slowly ran his hands down her body and back up again.

“If I were going to arrest you, I’d first have to frisk you,” he whispered in her ear. “Just to make sure you weren’t concealing any weapons.”

His breath stirred her hair, making her shiver.

“Nope, no weapons here.” He cupped her breasts, giving her nipples a squeeze through the fabric before slipping his hand between her legs. “What about here?”

She moaned as he thrust a finger in her pussy and wiggled it back and forth.

“No weapons here, either.”

He slid his finger out to fumble with something on his belt. Harley was about to look over her shoulder to see what he was doing when something cool and metallic snapped around her wrist. Handcuffs. A quiver of excitement raced through her as he gently pinned that arm behind her back and cuffed it to the other one.

She caught her bottom lip between her teeth. This was even better than her fantasies.

He put his mouth to her ear again. “Spread ‘em.”

Buy it on Amazon Kindle!

Buy it at ARe!

Buy it on B&N Nook!


"Stories so hot, they'll make your cheeks blush!"

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Sexiest Memory

I just got completely distracted in the middle of writing a scene, due to a flashback of one of my all time favorite memories of my hubby.

It's no secret I love catchers, and my main crush is the Boston RedSox captain, Jason Varitek (pictured at left), who probably played his last season in 2011. But even before Tek came into my life, I fell in love with an even sexier catcher.

Back when I was a national level fastpitch softball pitcher (seems like forever ago!), when I couldn't get a catcher to work with me between our insane game/practice/tournament schedule, my man used to catch for me. He first offered when we weren't even dating yet. I didn't know him all that well at that point, so I wasn't sure how seriously I could take him. I mean, what if he sucked at catching and I hurt him? Like, really hurt him? I'd broken catchers' fingers before and left serious contusions when they didn't snag up a pitch in the dirt quick enough. I remember being really skeptical about throwing to him, but since I really needed the extra work, I took him up on his offer and decided I'd just start out gently and see how things went.

I think it was that day that I truly started seeing him as something other than a friend. Squatting behind the plate wearing a catcher's mask, easily handling anything I could dish out at him, he was something to see. I'll never forget what he said to me after we warmed up a little. He stood up to stretch his legs at one point and tipped his mask back up on his head to give me a sexy little wink before tugging his mask down. Dropping back into his crouch, he slapped his fist into his glove and held it out as a target, saying, "Come on, baby, hit me."


I was done for, right then and there. Instant, chemical lust, people. He was the sexiest thing I've ever seen in my life. Ever. To this day, thinking about him back there makes me all tingly :) I think it was that day that changed things between us forever. It took a few more months for us to start dating, but the all important groundwork of friendship was already there.

Not only was he fabulous as a catcher, he was also incredibly supportive. He came to every game and away tournament, no matter how far he had to drive or fly to get there. He'd help out with the other pitchers occasionally too, and all the girls liked having him around. I think they all were a little in love with him, but I was the one that got to take him home every night. Lucky me :)

Any of you have really strong memories like that about your significant other? Would love to hear about them!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Muppet Marathon

My family has a new-found love; watching old episodes of The Muppet Show. We've borrowed seasons one, two and three from the library and introduced our kids to this gem of a show. It's like nothing that is televised today. I'd even go as far to call it wholesome. I've never been a fan of wholesome, and perhaps this show doesn't quite fit that description, but compared to what passes for kids' shows today, it's downright pure. Yet, everyone in the family (even me with my less than vanilla and mainstream tastes) can find something to enjoy.

The recent release of a new Muppet Movie piqued our children's interest in rediscovering this old series. As much as I despise relying on Hollywood as a mechanism to spark my children's love of something new, there have been some instances when a good movie has opened the door to even new worlds of books for kids. And that's a success as far as I'm concerned.

Our newest family game is to list our absolute favorite and absolute least favorite Muppet. Some of the favorites in our household include Kermit, Rolph the dog, the crotchety old guys in the balcony (Statler and Waldorf), Animal, the Swedish Chef, Beaker and Doctor Bunsen Honeydew. Miss Piggy consistently ranks as least favorite. I understand why that's so, although I find it a shame that the sole leading female Muppet is so easily despised. It's one of the shows great weaknesses.

On top of the great Muppet performances, it's kind of fun to watch the famous stars of the 1970's and 80's sing along with the characters. They never tried to steal the show from the Muppets, but graciously played their goofy roles and displayed low-key versions of their prodigious talents to help fill up the air-time for this variety show.

I wish something like The Muppet Show still existed today. Would you watch? And by the way, who is your favorite and least favorite Muppet?

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Hee hee. Technology, fun and other stuff...

I can identify with anyone who has trouble with technology. However, some things are easy and fun...even for techno-phobes like me.

I just took a course from a social networking expert recently, and she made the point that I've suspected for a long time. People enjoy the "social" aspect of social media. That means, yes, they do want to see a picture of the cute sandals you just scored for 8 bucks. You should be careful what you put out there though. Say you just got back from vacation, not that you're going away for a week with the whole family. Crooks do look for these things. And never fill out the profiles with actual identifying information...especially if you write sexy stories!

Constant promo is obnoxious. That's another item she pointed out. It actually turns people off. I've never been good about blogging anything but business, so I resurrected a cheeky advice column I had tried a while ago. I enjoyed the heck out of this, and if WE enjoy our social media (blogging, facebook, twitter, etc) so will others.

Check out my tongue-in-cheek advice column if you have a chance and please send your own letters to I won't reveal your real identity even if tortured.

I hope I delivered the best advice possible. See what you think?

Now, because I did just have a novella released, I want to make folks aware of that too. Ironically, it's about a 300 year-old immortal who can't keep up with technology and wants to off herself because of it. (Ever felt that way?) LOL

Friday, January 20, 2012

Too Much Technology

By: Casey Crow

A buddy of mine sent an email to me. It’s one of those joke email that gets forward around, and although I’m probably breaking all kinds of plagiarism laws, it was so dad-blame funny, I had to share. And since recently I was explaining to my son what the phrase “Imitation is the best form of flattery” means, I’m thinking I’ll defer to that sentiment regarding this post.

Now this senior citizen is fed up with technology, and sadly, I have to agree with him. I don’t have the age excuse either, so that makes it worse so here’s to those of you like me who are not blessed tech savvy skills.

When I bought my Blackberry, I thought about the 30-year business I ran with 1800 employees, all without a cell phone that plays music, takes videos, pictures and communicates with Facebook and Twitter. I signed up under duress for Twitter and Facebook, so my seven kids, their spouses, 13 grand kids and 2 great grand kids could communicate with me in the modern way. I figured I could handle something as simple as Twitter with only 140 characters of space.

That was before one of my grandkids hooked me up for Tweeter, Tweetree, Twhirl, Twitterfon, Tweetie and Twittererific Tweetdeck, Twitpix and something that sends every message to my cell phone and every other program within the texting World.

My phone was beeping every three minutes with the details of everything except the bowel movements of the entire next generation. I am not ready to live like this. I keep my cell phone in the garage in my golf bag.

The kids bought me a GPS for my last birthday because they say I get lost every now and then going over to the grocery store or library. I keep that in a box under my tool bench with the Blue tooth [it's red] phone I am supposed to use when I drive. I wore it once and was standing in line at Barnes and Noble talking to my wife and everyone in the nearest 50 yards was glaring at me. I had to take my hearing aid out to use it, and I got a little loud.

I mean the GPS looked pretty smart on my dash board, but the lady inside that gadget was the most annoying, rudest person I had run into in a long time. Every 10 minutes, she would sarcastically say, "Re-calc-u-lating." You would think that she could be nicer. It was like she could barely tolerate me. She would let go with a deep sigh and then tell me to make a U-turn at the next light. Then if I made a right turn instead. Well, it was not a good relationship..

When I get really lost now, I call my wife and tell her the name of the cross streets and while she is starting to develop the same tone as Gypsy, the GPS lady, at least she loves me.

To be perfectly frank, I am still trying to learn how to use the cordless phones in our house. We have had them for 4 years, but I still haven't figured out how I can lose three phones all at once and have to run around digging under chair cushions and checking bathrooms and the dirty laundry baskets when the phone rings.

The world is just getting too complex for me. They even mess me up every time I go to the grocery store. You would think they could settle on something themselves but this sudden "Paper or Plastic?" every time I check out just knocks me for a loop. I bought some of those cloth reusable bags to avoid looking confused, but I never remember to take them in with me.
Now I toss it back to them. When they ask me, "Paper or Plastic?" I just say, "Doesn't matter to me. I am bi-sacksual." Then it's their turn to stare at me with a blank look.

I was recently asked if I tweet. I answered, No, but I do toot a lot."

Us senior citizens don't need anymore gadgets. The TV remote and the garage door remote are about all we can handle.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Taking Care of Family

The ICKs are being passed around at my house. Almost all my nieces and nephews have been out sick and I've had to play cook, chauffeur, maid, and babysitter...

My mother was hit with a bug today so I was worried  that she'd have to be hospitalized once again so I've been monitoring her all day. While she slept, I decided it was time to do some Chinese New Years cleaning...humm, never tackle anything on a whim. In my case, I get a little obsessive. I basically dismantled and moved my king sized bed out and rearranged the entire room to help with the Feng Shui. Inspiration has been kind of lacking and I can't seem to stay focused for very long. I'm a firm believer in energy and I knew it wasn't flowing well in my work space but I let it go due to my busy schedule. After hours and hours of cleaning, I'm pretty satisfied with the results. The mood and atmosphere has totally improved and I can say the energy is stronger than ever.

Let me tell you, I should have gotten off my butt and done this a long time ago! Sometimes it just takes a little bit of initiative to get you back on track. Have you made improvements in your own work space and did it make a difference for you? 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Diary of Lady Eve Marlowe comes to Italy phones...with all the digital footprints taking up our time these days,does anyone keep a handwritten diary?

I've always enjoyed novels where diaries take centerstage and the reader has the opportunity to read over the heroine's shoulder and sneak a peek into her private thoughts.

These days it's called "twittering."

I find it interesting that Harlequin Italy is reissuing my diary novel, Cleopatra's Perfume, in a "3-in-1" novel package this month called ISTINTO DI PIACERE (Instinct of Pleasure). 

Cleopatra's Perfume features a diary written by a titled Englishwoman and how she became a spy for British Intelligence during World War II.

She also has a secret--she's not British after all, but...oh I can't give it away! I couldn't peek into my heroine's diary and spill the hill of beans...never, dahling.

But I will give you a sexy excerpt from Cleopatra's Perfume:

This diary belongs to: Lady Eve Marlowe
London, Mayfair
March 31, 1941

            My life is in danger, but that won't stop me.  I must go to Berlin.  Yes, I know it's dangerous, considering the country is run by a monster marching against the world order and devouring innocents like a dragon spewing fire. He's destroying everything in his path with flames of hatred and prejudice and he may destroy me, but I have no choice. If I fail at my mission I will die, as will others, but I've made preparations for a way out should death come too close to me. One so unbelievable I must write it down, for if I do not, no one will ever know what happened to me and the extraordinary journey I've taken.  No one but you, dear reader. 

          It all began in 1939 when I refused to slip on the somber elegance of a widow's veil, an act I undertook with the same rebelliousness that had ruled my young life. Unwilling, un-virginal, and undaunted by an empty bed I was determined would soon be filled, I set out to find adventure. I was lonely, though at twenty-nine I'd traveled the world and seen its wonders as well as its weaknesses. I'd met my late husband, Lord Marlowe, who was thirty years my senior, years earlier when I was stranded in Cairo after what The London Times society page called "an unfortunate incident with renowned archaeologist Lord Wordley's expedition into the Valley of the Kings," insinuating I'd been on a dig with the famed explorer and his group of posh thrill-seekers. Nothing could be farther from the truth, but I will leave the reality of what happened to later telling. All you need to know is I have a history with Egypt far removed from my peerage as Lady Marlowe.

          I had arrived in the Near East as a girl of twenty in a time when rebellious girls dressed in red satin trunks and short tops and sat at tables in seedy caf├ęs, sipping highballs in squatty glasses with men seated around them, their hungry mouths drawn back in drunken smiles while someone struck the same chords over and over again on an upright piano. I'm not ashamed of what I did during that those wild days of my youth, but nor do I wish to recall them here. So, dear reader, whoever you are, be assured I knew what to expect when the liner stopped for stevedoring in Port Said and I disembarked from the ship.  Known as a city of sin, rice and women are its main commodities.  Port Said harbors a white slave trade flourishing in its hidden places, bars, and houses where young girls languish and perish under the thumbs of men.

          I also discovered another secret in this city at the entrance to the Suez Canal, how a woman can forget her loneliness and indulge in the most delicious sexual adventures, so decadent I bring myself close to orgasm thinking about it, my pen shaking as I lay it down and unbutton my white silk, wide-leg trousers and insert my fingers inside me and stroked myself… panting, hanging in anticipation of what I know will come if I continue rubbing the hard ridge inside me, my body gyrating in time with the movements of my fingers as I circle my clitoris.  I open my legs wider to allow my fingers easier access…

Which brings me back to my original question: Diaries. Does anyone here keep a handwritten diary? Did you in high school or college?

Better yet, do you still have it? Willing to share? We want details, juicy details...

Monday, January 16, 2012

Think Time

I try to go on walks early in the morning to clear my head, to think of new ideas or new twists on old ideas! Sometimes I'll see a bird or a family or something random that will spark the kernel of a plot. So just for grins, I'll share my scenery with you.

Above is a tall pine tree where an eagle likes to perch sometimes.

This is my favorite house along the way. 

 Lake views...

What inspires you? Is it scenes from nature, music, art or something else?

Friday, January 13, 2012

Back from the WDW Marathon!

We're back from the WDW Marathon!

We've done a few half-marathons there and decided we needed to try a full, and we're so glad we did! All the training we did paid off. Not only was it a great run, but it was so much fun! It helped that the weather was fantastic. We got lots of pics with characters along the course - one of my favorite things to do at Disney. There are a lot of characters out you don't usually see at the parks, which is cool. We couldn't stop for pics with every one, of course - didn't want to mess with our pace or get stiff - but we had a couple we were on the lookout for, namely Louie from Princess and the Frog and Goofy's son, Max. They were both on the course and we totally got pics with them! We also got a pic at the twenty-six mile mark! LOL! Oh, and we got cool Mickey medals for finishing!

And we went to the parks, too!  Where we got pics with more characters!

Can't wait to do it again! And maybe, after we get a few marathons under our belt, we'll go crazy and do the Goofy Challenge, where you run the hal on Saturday, then the full on Sunday!


"Stories so hot, they'll make your cheeks blush!"

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Touch Me

Happy New Year to you all! How's 2012 treating you so far? I had a new release come out from Carina Press called Touch Me, and it features a yummy alpha military hero in a friends-to-lovers story that I hope will melt your heart along with your panties :)

Blurb: Arriving home on leave from his tour of duty, Army Captain Alex Montoya knows there’s a beautiful woman waiting for him—his best friend’s sister. She’s always been off limits…until now. He fully intends to move them out of being “just friends” and encourage her to release the sexual needs he senses she’s buried deep.
Tianna McIntyre is starting over after her marriage ended. Her ex-husband weakened her self-esteem and caused her to deny her true sexual desires. But being around Alex brings all her dormant fantasies to the surface, and now Tianna feels the stirrings of her secret, submissive wishes.
Determined to help repair the damage Tianna’s ex did to her self-worth, Alex will use whatever means necessary to convince her they’re meant for each other, including tying her down to make sure he has her full attention while he takes her to the heights of pleasure she’s always dreamed of…

She swallowed, mouth too dry to speak.His seductive touch wreaked havoc on her nervous system, but she was still unsure of his motives. Did he feel sorry for her now? Was she so lonely and desperate for his touch that he could tell?
“What are we doing?”
His thumbs pressed deep on a spot that made her toes curl, and she bit back a moan. “Enjoying each other. Is that okay?”
She nodded. But was that all they were doing? Was that all she meant to him? She’d never had a fling. Didn’t think she could be just that to Alex.
Those clever fingers stroked higher, behind her knee, and paused. Her heart drummed loudly in her ears as she stared at him. God, she was already wet and throbbing for him, and all he’d done was touch her leg.
She licked her lips. “What?”
“Stop thinking.”
Impossible. Her brain was whirring like a runaway carousel.
His fingertips moved a few inches higher, up her inner thigh. “Just feel.”
More than the words, the tenderness overlying the command in his voice sent a ribbon of heat curling through her. Her leg muscles drew tight while he continued to caress her over-sensitized skin in a lazy, slow pattern. Lighting up her entire body with no effort at all.
Alex’s eyes seemed to glow in the soft lamplight. “Feel good?”
She nodded, afraid to speak. God, it’d been so long for her. She wasn’t sure she could get through this without crying. He meant so much to her. This meant so much to her. But under the heat the nerves crept back in, those vicious little doubts that pricked her with sharp claws.
You take too long. You’re too much work.
You’re not sexy enough.
You’re not even wet. You need serious help. Her ex’s voice.
The hand around her ankle firmed, and she sucked in her breath. “Your skin’s so soft.” He sounded almost reverent, and it made her throat ache. Watching her, almost daring her to look away, his fingers trailed back and forth over her inner thigh, just inches from the edge of her damp thong. “I’m going to ask you something, and I want you to be honest with me.” When she didn’t answer, he finally spoke again. “Are you wet right now, Tia?”
Blood rushed to her cheeks, engulfing her face in heat.
His eyes crinkled at the corners as he smiled slightly. “Are you?”
She didn’t know how to respond. If she said yes when he’d only been touching her legs, would she look pathetic? Chickening out, she broke eye contact. “Alex…”
“Tell me.” The heat of his fingers seemed to brand her skin.
Avoiding his gaze, she stared hard at the blanket covering her lap and nodded, praying it was the answer he wanted.
“Look at me.”
The ring of command in his voice brought her head up. What she saw in his eyes stole her breath. They were molten, full of raging hunger. For her. The knowledge shocked her.
“I’m going to keep touching you,” he said. “I want to find out what makes you squirm, makes you beg. And what makes you come for me.”
His words wrung a primal shiver out of her. She couldn’t believe what he was saying. How could he be attracted to her when he could have any woman he wanted?
His fingers paused, resting hot against her thigh. “Unless you want me to stop.”
“I don’t want you to stop.” Her voice was a mere thread of a sound.
One side of his mouth curved up. “Okay. But I don’t know what you need unless you tell me.”
Her heart fell. He expected her to say it out loud? The thought terrified her. “What I need?” God, did he somehow know about her secret fantasies? Did he think she was depraved or weird?
He nodded slowly. “I want to know what you need from me. Romance and candlelight aren’t my style, querida, but I’ll give them to you if that’s what you want.”
The endearment made her lower belly flutter in desperate longing, gave her hope. He’d never called her that before. “I don’t need them.”
One coal black brow rose. “Yes you do, and you deserve them. But that’s not the real me.”
Her throat dried up, her heart skipping frantically. Was it possible he wanted the same thing she did? “What…what’s the real you?” she asked before she could stop herself.
A sardonic smile curved his mouth. His tempting, edible mouth that had given her such pleasure this morning. “Not sure you’d like the answer to that.”
Oh yes, she might. Gathering her courage, Tia sat up and placed her hand over his. Her pulse hammered in her ears. “Then show me.”
*end excerpt*

I'm going to give away a digital copy of Touch Me to a commenter here, so to enter please leave me a comment about one of your fave steamy reads in the past year. I'm heading to Mississippi tomorrow to visit the fabulous Katie Reus, and since I'm deathly afraid of flying, I'd appreciate any hot recs that I can download to my Kindle to keep me somewhat distracted while I'm helpless and 30,000 feet in the air. *shudder*

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Lordy, Lordy…

Lord of the Abyss

So recently I finished Nalini Singh’s new book, Lord of the Abyss. It’s Book 4 in the Royal House of Shadows trilogy for Harlequin Nocturne. Oh. My. Lamb. Is it breaking a commandment to have book envy? Thou shall not covet thou fellow author’s mad skill…

Let me tell you, Lord of the Abyss was an experience. In a nutshell—and we’re talking pistachio-size, here—the series revolves around the four siblings from the royal house of Elden, a mystical kingdom. The Blood Sorcerer conquered the kingdom, but the king and queen saved their children by scattering them to different places. Now the four heirs must return to the kingdom and restore it to a place of peace and prosperity before time runs out—literally. Nalini Singh’s novel tells the story of Micah, the youngest heir, and Liliana, the Blood Sorcerer’s daughter. How many elements did Nalini Singh touch on in this book? True beauty being on the inside. Adversity can breed strength.Nature vs. nurture. Love will always conquers evil. Spiders are STILL big-ass scary freaks of nature.

She is a natural, master storyteller. And that’s what drew me in. From the words, “When I…” she wove a tale that dragged me from the very depths of horror and pity and rocketed me to the heights of joy and triumph! I was taken for a ride. And in a good way! Which brings us back to my book envy. One of my father’s favorite author is Khalil Gibran—I’m going somewhere with this, I swear. Just bear with me. Daddy claims it’s because every word that Gibran uses is perfect and needed. It’s the same with Nalini Singh. Every word, every description, is perfect. Nothing is wasted and each is needed. She awes me!

Every writer should have another author that inspires them. An author. As individuals we all have people we admire and who motivate us. But as writers we should have someone who made us want to write in the first place. Who, after reading their books, make us say, that is the brilliance I’m aiming to obtain. I am not the same writer as Nalini Singh—we don’t write the same genre and our voices are different. But it is her ability to weave a magical spell of words that pulls emotion and dreams from her readers that I allows me to declare without shame, “Nalini, I’m not worthy!” But doggone it, one day, I will be!

What author stirred that creative seed in your soul? Who inspires you today? 

Monday, January 9, 2012

Why Ride the Subway with Pants?

Yesterday was the worldwide No Pants Subway Ride event. Riders in major cities across the world casually rode the subways without their pants. (Underwear on, however.) The event was began by Improv Everywhere ten years ago, a group with goals to "elicit laughs" and cause "scenes of chaos and joy" with no political agenda.

Afterward riders met in select bars for festivities to mark the event.

Reading about this important social behavior got my brain spinning. So what if a couple met on the subway during this random, bizarre event? Maybe they both were without pants. Maybe only one of them was participating and the other struck up a conversation with him about his pants less state. Interesting story inspiration. I'm filing this one away as possible short story fodder. Pants less subway love.

Now tell the truth. Were you on public transportation yesterday without your pants? I only wish my day had been that interesting.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Scarlett O'hara Effect

By Pageant Guru Casey Crow - yeah I said that.

Those that know me are fully aware I pretty much have five passions in life – my kids, writing, dancing, working out, and pageants. Today, I'm going to talk about the latter since Miss America is coming up on Jan. 14th. I know this because it's in permanent ink on my calendar.

I think my first pageant experience was when I was five, but really got the bug when I turned fifteen. I’ve competed on the local, state, national, and international levels and in every sector of pageantry you can imagine. In college, I participated in the Miss Universe and Miss America systems. A huge highlight was competing in Miss Alabama for several years. I was Miss University of Alabama, an honor I still have no qualms bragging about! Another special title for me was Miss International Motorsports Hall of Fame. The title is long, but getting to meet Jeff Gordon (sigh!) as well as other famous NASCAR drivers and ride atop the Pace Car to open a Talladega race made memories I’ll never forget.

Fast forward to present day – I’ve been a pageant coach for over twenty years with a dang impressive track record. I've got two gorgeous young ladies competing in a few weeks for Miss Alabama Teen USA, the preliminary to Miss TEEN USA. I also work as a professional emcee and judge (Miss America certified) and big surprise, my daughter has been competing her whole life.

To give you a little history, a unique American tradition began in 1921, as a promotional gimmick when Atlantic City, New Jersey, hotelmen decided to stage a flashy fall festival, or “pageant” to entice summer tourists to stay in town past Labor Day. On the boardwalk, “the most beautiful bathing beauties in America,” strutted their stuff. Newspaperman Herb Test said, “Let’s call her Miss America!” Eight contestants competed with Margaret Gorman, who represented the nation’s capital as Miss Washington D.C., won. The sixteen-year-old schoolgirl was a dead ringer for reigning matinee superstar, Mary Pickford. Talent became mandatory in 1938 and scholarships were first awarded in 1945.

The next big pageant came along in the 1950’s when Miss America 1951 Yolande Betbeze refused to pose in a swimsuit, insisting that she was a classical singer, not a pin-up. (BTW, she is a native of Mobile, Alabama, where I live and still looks amazing!) Officials supported her decision, but main sponsor Catalina Swimwear quit and started the sexier Miss Teen USA, Miss USA, Miss Universe, and Mrs. World. In case you don’t know, Donald Trump now owns those systems. I also think it’s rather interesting to note that these systems were the first to work for world charities, even beginning in their earliest year of 1951, while Miss America is now better known for supporting its national platform, the Children’s Miracle Network, along with each contestant’s personal issue.

Basically in the United States, Miss America and Miss USA are the premier two pageants. Many others exist including those for women of all ages, single, married, divorced, minorities only, plus size, and even senior citizens. There are pageants for teens and children young as zero. The first international pageant for children was staged in Miami, Florida, in 1960. It was Little Miss Universe.

To be blunt, pageants are a way for the owners/directors to make money. Most, particularly those involving children, most likely began when someone got mad about something and broke away, founding another system. Each new system had a new set of rules regarding dress, make-up, modeling, talent, etc. That’s why you now have everything from all natural (no make-up and minimal sparkles) to glitz (think Toddler’s and Tiara’s). It’s true, in glitz pageants, spray tans, flippers (fake teeth), hair pieces (extensions and/or wigs), Tammy Faye Baker make-up, and lots and lots of rhinestones are not only necessary, but required to win. Glitz pageants are the ones giving away cars and ginormous crowns. Talent is usually optional while “fancy” modeling rules the runway. Even boys can compete!

The more natural ones opt for scholarship money. Most of them and the middle-of-the-road (a little make-up) pageants focus more on talent and are considered to be Youth Development Programs (YDP) as opposed to a “pageant” where you win a crown and go home. That's the kind my daughter does. YDP’s provide a “reign” and not only for the winner, but all contestants involved have the opportunity to participate in parades and entertain at various festivals, fairs, and other venues throughout the year. This provides opportunities to be on stage (or doing backhandsprings on a flat bed trailer as I often did) and try out different talents or work on public speaking skills. A girl may sing one number and dance the next. That usually means changing with a few mamas holding up beach towels to create a dressing room. Who said pageant life was glamorous? Participants also meet political leaders and take part in charitable events. Friendships are formed and competing many times becomes secondary to having fun with friends.

Opponents to pageants say they degrade women and children, turning them into puppets and sex objects. Contestants often develop eating disorders and spend way more money than they ever receive, even in the popular scholarship based Miss America and Distinguished Young Woman (formerly Jr. Miss – which does not consider itself a pageant, but for argument’s sake, I’m including it as a scholarship source for young women). They say that pageants encourage women/girls to not be their true selves, but a made-up version, which encourages excess plastic surgery. The Jon Bennett Ramsey incident still haunts us, but her parents maintained, as the vast majority of pageant parents do, that this is hobby. Boys play baseball. Girls put on pretty dresses and smile.

Proponents argue that pageants develop poise, self-confidence, and talent. Lynn Maggio, 2011 Mrs. Alabama International believes, “pageantry has given me the confidence to explore other opportunities. It has contributed to the way look and feel, put me in the public eye, and helped me use the abilities and talents I have that otherwise I would not have been exposed.” Laura Newton says, “I have two daughters that have competed in pageants for the last ten years. I can see a difference in their self-confidence, ability to speak in front of others, and their ability to interview well. I feel they have grown from this experience socially and mentally.” I can attest that pageant experience gives you the skills to think on your feet and speak in front of a crowd with zero prompting and preparation. In 2010, Miss Alabama 2010 Ashley Davis and I were emceeing together. There was probably an hour of technical difficulties, but the show never slowed or stopped because we were able to adlib, interview each other and audience members, speak on our personal platforms, tell jokes, and entertain. (Thank you Ashley!)

Those skills translate into other areas of life. For example, having been interviewed in front of judges at a pageant makes a job interview a cakewalk because pageant judges are famous for asking (1.) General pageant questions (What is your ambition and why? What three words best describe you? (2.) Current events (How do you feel about the US government’s involvement in Iraq? Name your Senator, Congressman, and the president’s daughters.), and (3.) Stupid pageant questions (What kitchen utensil best describes you? If you could be a car, animal, color, flower, etc. what would it be and why?). Don’t forget you have about two seconds to come up with an intelligent reply. Interview questions make you think on your feet and develop the skills to articulate opinions. Research has shown that pageant participates do well academically in school because of the discipline pageants develop. Girls must practice their talent, modeling (yep, I’ve walked around my house with a book on my head in pajamas and high heels), and study up on interview (read the newspaper and watch CNN). Other advantages are increased interest in community service and volunteerism, bonding time between parent and child (unless you have one of those moms), and increased in physical health (no jiggly thighs in swimsuit). It’s important to mention that Miss America’s stance on the swimsuit competition is they keep the tradition, not because that’s how the pageant got its start, but because the American public expects its winner to be beautiful and physically fit.

So why are pageants so popular in the South? The entire top five in Miss America 2009 were all southerners (including Miss Alabama!) and as much as we like to think Southern Belles are just plain prettier, that’s not the case. Pageant judge Cheryl Bonner coins Southerners’ appreciation of beauty as The Scarlett O’Hara Effect. Foo foo hairdos and fancy dresses come from that old Southern Belle look which we southerners have been exposed to all our lives as a form of beauty. In essence, we love our traditions. Since pageants have been around for nearly 100 years, it makes sense that we would love parading that beauty around and watching it.

What’s your take on pageants? My eight year-old pageant veteran advises, “Be sure to wear a slip because those dresses itch so bad you’ll feel like a cheetah is attacking you!” Why do you think we are obsessed with pageants in the South? Do you have a pageant experience you want to share? I’ll go first and admit my most embarrassing story. Before evening gown competition in a Miss Alabama preliminary, I went to the restroom then went on stage with my dress tucked in my panty hose! Thankfully, the dress was full and created a bustle of sorts. Here’s another memory. Luckily, they have all these fancy pasty gadgets nowadays, but back in the day, one had to tape their breasts for extra perkiness. I used cloth first aid tape, but once I was out and used Duck Tape. Can you say pain? There was not enough baby oil in the world to make getting that stuff off hurt any less. I’ve had “wardrobe malfunctions” too that would make Janet Jackson look G-rated, but simply tugged on that top back in place and kept on dancing. I’ve even made the mistake of going to the restroom after swimsuit competition and let me say that spray glue on one’s behind mixed with a toilet seat HURTS! After that experience, I added baby wipes to my list of “must haves” along with Q-tips, lipstick, mascara, and hairspray. Lots of hairspray.

Sweating it off

I've spent most of my youth staying fit, eating right, being active. Heck, I never weighed more than 95 lbs because I've always been a petite woman. I started gaining weight in 2007 and I haven't been able to shed the pounds since. I'm currently 105 which I know most of you are probably screaming that I'm insane, but being 4'11, every extra pound really shows. I can't fit my size 0-1 designer jeans anymore and my size 3 butt isn't as firm as it once was. Last year I joined a gym when I got tired of feeling dumpy, but I was short on the motivation. I've spent so many years neglecting my body during the stressful parts of my life that I didn't see the connection to my mind and body. Being a writer, I'm  constantly stationary and food is my biggest vice. I'm such a foodie so it was hard to pass up on rich and decadent cuisine. Now I'm paying for it...but not for long.

I woke up one day realizing that I was tired of making excuses to work out. Even with my 3-year gym membership, I wasn't putting in the 100% effort so there was no real results. I swore to myself that in 2012--things were going to change. I want to dedicate this year to taking care of myself and not have this body image disorder that I developed because I let myself go. Turning 40 was a big milestone for me and although I may look fit, I wasn't feeling it. I don't want to wait too long to be proactive because my health will only go downhill from here and I refuse to have to get on medication the rest of my life--especially if I could take some preventive steps now. It's not too late for me to look good and feel good at my age. So on New Year's Eve I signed up for a personal trainer who does a bootcamp style fitness workout. Let me tell you, I haven't been able to walk for a few days but it's not slowing me down. I'm excited about getting back in shape and I know that once my body is toned to where I want it to be, my mind will become just as strong. This is my way of taking control of my life and hopefully the positive actions will translate in my writing career.  I see this as a year of the healthy mind and body and I'm hoping by the time Nationals in Anaheim comes around, I will be my best inside and out!

Hope the start of 2012 has been good for everyone! I know it will only get better!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Jina’s Top 5 Titanic Events for 2012 without leaving home

© Corey A. Ford |
The year 2012 is the Year of Titanic.

No doubt the world will focus attention on all things Titanic. According to The Independent in the UK, you can take a commemorative cruise where you can follow the route of the Titanic. You can also shell out $59,000 to explore the wreckage of the ship up and personal.

Titanic Belfast , the biggest Titanic visitor attraction in the world, will open March 31st (experts predict 400,000 people will descend upon the center during its first year with more than 35,000 tickets already sold). The city of Cobh (known as Queenstown in 1912) will observe the centenary with the Titanic 100 Event series.

Halifax, Nova Scotia has a special connection to Titanic with the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic and Titanic sites. Among them are three cemeteries where the Titanic dead are buried, their gravestones all cut from the same granite, all with the same date: April 15, 1912.

In Washington D.C. every year, you can attend the ringing of the bell at the Titanic Memorial to honor the brave gentlemen who died that night so women and children could be saved.

We can’t forget the Titanic exhibitions here is the U.S.: Mystic Titanic Aquarium Exhibit in Mystic, Connecticut will feature interaction touch screens to enhance the visitor’s Titanic experience.
What if you’re unable to travel to Ireland or Nova Scotia or here in the U.S. for these events?

No reason to miss out on all things Titanic. You’d be surprised how you can participate as well as honor Titanic victims this year without leaving home or your computer.

Here are my top 5 Titanic Events for 2012 without leaving home:

1. Not one but two TV mini-series are scheduled for 2012:

Titanic” from Downton Abbey’s Julian Fellowes will debut on April 12, 2012 and will air in the U.S. on ABC and around the world (57 countries) for four nights. The mini-series creator promises a “fresh approach” as seen through the eyes of different characters (the cast includes 89 characters) including the oft neglected second class passengers.

Titanic: “Blood & Steel” is a 12-part BBC mini-series which focuses on the origin of the Titanic and the ship’s construction in Belfast, Ireland circa 1907. This emotional story is seen through the eyes of the wealthy men who backed and designed the ship as well as the laborers who fit together the nuts and bolts (14,000 workers). As of this writing, the U.S. network is TBA (keep you posted!).

2. James Cameron’s 1997 $2 billion-grossing Titanic film hits the IMAX theaters in 3-D on April 6, 2012 at the cost $18 million.

Mr. Cameron will also host a National Geographic special, Titanic: Final Word with James Cameron, which will share the spotlight Dr. Robert Ballard’s Save the Titanic. An amazing duo of documentaries I can’t wait to see along with Titanic in 3-D.

3. The Titanic First Class Dinner menu included a thirteen course meal from scallops to cream of barley soup to filet mignon to mint sorbet. You could travel to a hotel in Southampton or outside Philadelphia to enjoy a sumptuous Titanic dinner emulating the first class fare hotel.

There’s also a good chance a local restaurant in your city is planning such an event. Or plan your own Titanic dinner. This wonderful article by Rachel Cooke in the Guardian in the UK offers excellent information on Titanic fare. Or check out Last Dinner on the Titanic by Rick Archbold and Dana McCauley for the delicious details.

4. From the heroism of the Titanic musicians led by Wallace Hartley to the hymn Nearer, My God, To Thee that Titanic survivors reported hearing from the lifeboats, music has played a major part in the Titanic story. In 2012 a four-night concert will be beamed globally that will tell the story of Titanic.

Also scheduled is an album from Robin Gibbs (Bee Gees) entitled “The Titanic Requiem” with a special track about a young girl on one of the lifeboats singing about her father who died on the liner.

I’m really looking forward to the concert from The Spirit of Titanic who will perform music from the movie and the period with the Titanic Choristers and National Symphony Orchestra. According to my tweets with Spirit of Titanic, they’re planning to release a DVD of the concert. Can’t wait.

5. Without the wireless sending distress signals from the Titanic, most likely there would have been no survivors. These chilling messages will be rebroadcast in real time on April 14th and 15th by the Nova Scotia Museum on Twitter: “…the same wireless messages operators received in 1912.”

This is a must-do event for all Titanic enthusiasts. I participated in the event last year and I can still feel the strong pull of those messages sent out across the Atlantic on that bitterly cold, starry night.
Seeing the words It’s CQD, old man” (distress call) pop up on your computer screen is akin to a time machine putting you back there at that precise moment.

Cover Art by Dar Albert

I’m proud to be a part of Titanic with my novel, TITANIC RHAPSODY. My story is a romance about an Irish emigrant named Katie O’Reilly who believed so hard in the American Dream she risked it all to sail on the Titanic.

The ship of dreams.
Katie’s grand adventure begins when she boards the Titanic with the law at her heels and runs straight into the arms of the handsomest man she’s ever seen—
“Now if you’ll be pointing me in the right direction to the third class deck,” Katie said, showing him her ticket, “I’ll be on me way.”
          “And right into the hands of the law."

          She took in a deep breath. So he did know.
          He continued, “You have no choice but to allow me to offer you my protection.”

         “And who are you, sir?”

          He bowed slightly. “Captain Lord Jack Blackthorn, at your service.”
What are you waiting for, girl? Look at the man, will you?
He was tall, muscular and possessed an arrogance that intrigued her. Not to mention a building heat inside her that warmed her down to her toes. He seemed more alive to her than any man she’d ever seen. A man who knew his charm and savored it.
“And why would you be helping the likes of me?” Katie wanted to know with a proud air.
He smiled at that, continuing to stare at her, his eyes dark and searching. “Come with me and find out.”
2012 is going to be a momentous year for all things Titanic. I hope you’ll join me for future posts as we count down to that fateful night.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Family for Fodder

New Year's is a harmless annual institution, of no particular use to anybody save as a scapegoat for promiscuous drunks, and friendly calls and humbug resolutions. ~ Mark Twain

Now that the holidays are drawing to a close, I am reflecting on the merriment, the gifts, the lessons and THE FAMILY! Why the family? Because all those quirky relatives provide wonderful fodder for building characters.

Instead of bemoaning crazy Uncle Willard's disgusting table manners, I jot down the particulars and file it away in that rolodex of quirks I keep in the back of my brain.

Rather than chide cheap Aunt Penny for re-gifting every single present she received last year, I make a note of her behavior to use when populating my next book.

Hey, every life experience can help to enrich our writing, so why not make the best of each experience. And speaking of the best, what's your best New Year's memory from this or years past. Mine is smooching with DH (then my boyfriend) at the first New Year's party I hosted on my own after college. It was so much fun until the rum and cokes met up with the champagne in my stomach! Now - dish!

Wishing you a happy, healthy New Year.