Friday, February 24, 2012

Winner! + Quick Update

First and foremost, congratulations to KarenG on winning the signed copy of Jennifer Haymore's SECRETS OF AN ACCIDENTAL DUCHESS.  Karen -- I've sent an email for your snail mail address.  Really hope you enjoy the book!

As for the quick update portion of this post, I'd just like all of you to know that I gave birth to a healthy 6 lb 8 oz baby boy on Sunday morning at 11:10 A.M.  Jake measured 20 perfect inches and kicked and screamed like a champ. Here's a few pics:

A very happy moment. That's my obstetrician, Dr. Carter,
and his too awesome for words nurse, Holly.

Hello, world!!

Finally, we get to go home!

...and immediately start dressing cute.

The dogs were pooped, too.  Way too much drama, Mama!

My Little Man, Jake

So, I'll likely be out of pocket for a wee bit, as The Hubby and I adjust to the needs and demands of our new little one.  Thank you for all your prayers and well-wishes.  Much love to everyone.

Peace, Love, and Junior Mints,


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Jennifer Haymore Exclusive Interview + GIVEAWAY!

A few years ago, as The Hubby and I were trudging through our local Air Force Base Exchange, I did what I always do: Stopped at the small collection of books sandwiched between boy magazines and electronics. There, amidst the newest Harlequin releases and vampire romances, sat a beautifully bound historical by the name of A Hint of Wicked. It's author? Then-Newcomer Jennifer Haymore. I picked it up--the cover girl in the fabulous red dress whispered my name, I tell ya--flipped it over, read the blurb, figured, "Why not? Why not take a chance on a new author?"

Boy, am I glad I did.

Today, I am both honored and thrilled to present the marvelously talented JENNIFER HAYMORE and her newest release SECRETS OF AN ACCIDENTAL DUCHESS.

Hello, Jennifer, and welcome! Let's just start off with a writerly question, shall we? For most, a certain book, author, or personal experience (or a combo of all 3) sparked that storyteller’s muse.  What or who did that for you?

For the most part, I think it was a combination of experiences. But it might have all started when  my family took me sailing across the Pacific. We had some wild, stranger-than-fiction adventures on that trip, and when we got back to the USA a year later, I couldn’t stop writing about it. And that’s when the stories started coming to me.

Speaking of The Muse, what (if any) music inspires you most?

Almost all music inspires me. I have eclectic tastes, from rap to classical. I find inspiration from it all.

You’ve got two new releases under your belt this month, Secrets of an Accidental Duchess (the second book in the Donovan series) and the ebook short story/novella entitled Once Upon a Wicked Night, which you’ve described as book 1.5 of the same series.  Other than the obvious diverse length between the two, what major difference(s) did you discover when writing a full-length novel, as opposed to the shorter, more concise novella?

They both have their own challenges. Novellas are difficult! You need to stay on track, there’s no wandering allowed. Also, if it’s a romance, you need to condense your hero and heroine’s process of falling in love without making it seemed rushed, which is definitely a challenge. I’ve been writing novels so consistently for some time now, I find novellas extremely difficult to write.

You’ve written a lot of dashing, deliciously masculine heroes.  Indulge us for a moment and share your personal favorite, won’t you? And why is he so special to you?

That’d be my husband, (grin), and not because he’d be annoyed if I chose someone else in my answer to this question! Among his many many awesome qualities, including his never-ending patience with me and my quirks, he’s the most loyal person I’ve ever known.

Ever get the urge to write and, ultimately, publish something different? Like, say, a contemporary?

What I secretly pine to write and publish is a young adult novel. Something that kids or teens could really sink their teeth into. 

This is a two-parter:  Do you ever find yourself discouraged?  What advice would you give to young writers out there, still seeking publication? 

Sometimes I find myself discouraged. Usually it’s from deadlines & my muse not cooperating, or from heavy edits, or from negative reviews. Sometimes it takes a day or two for me to pick myself back up and move on. This can be a tough business sometimes, but it’s the business I chose, and I always remember that I am blessed to have the ability to share my stories with the world.

To new writers, I always say keep reading and keep writing. Never give up. Everyone in this business has a different path--the challenge is to find the one that is right for you.

Since we readers love a juicy series—getting to know new characters, while revisiting the now-familiar feels like coming home—can you give us a little insight? A sneak peek into what’s next for the Donovans?

The oldest Donovan sisters were twins, and anyone reading the story knows that one of those twins was lost at sea years ago, never to be seen again and presumed drowned.

Well…that’s not exactly true. Captain Langley has a big surprise for him in store with PLEASURES OF A TEMPTED LADY (releases August 1, 2012).

This will be the final book in the Donovan series, and I can’t wait!

Finish this sentence: “One question I wish someone would ask but hasn’t is…”

Hmmm…none! Honestly, I think I’ve been asked them all, lol. J And I love sharing with readers, so if anyone has more questions, here’s my info:

Wasn't she fantastic? And guess what? She's giving away an autographed copy of SECRETS OF AN ACCIDENTAL DUCHESS to one lucky commenter! How to get it? So glad you asked! Just follow these steps:

1.) Become a follower of Small World, Big Dreams.
2.) Leave a comment on this post.
3.) Make certain to add your email address, so I can contact you if you win!

*This contest closes at midnight, Wednesday, February 22, 2012.

As a child, Jennifer Haymore traveled the South Pacific with her family on their homebuilt sailboat. The months spent on the sometimes quiet, sometimes raging seas sparked her love of adventure and grand romance. Since then, she's earned degrees in computer science and education and held various jobs ranging from bookselling to teaching inner-city children to acting, but she's never stopped writing. 

You can find Jennifer in Southern California trying to talk her husband into yet another trip to England, helping her three children with homework while brainstorming a new five-minute dinner menu, or crouched in a corner of the local bookstore writing her next novel. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day!

"So long as I can breathe or I can see; 
so long lives your love which gives life to me."
-William Shakespeare

Happy Valentine's Day, Everyone!
Be sure to tune in tomorrow;
I've got an ENORMOUS treat for y'all!

Peace, Love, & Junior Mints (and lots of Hugs & Kisses),


Sunday, February 12, 2012

Review: Wildthorn by Jane Eagland

Wildthorn by Jane Eagland, 2010, Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 352 pages.

They strip her naked, of everything—undo her whalebone corset, hook by hook. Locked away in Wildthorn Hall—a madhouse—they take her identity. She is now called Lucy Childs. She has no one; she has nothing. But, she is still seventeen—still Louisa Cosgrove, isn't she? Who has done this unthinkable deed? Louisa must free herself, in more ways than one, and muster up the courage to be her true self, all the while solving her own twisted mystery and falling into an unconventional love . . .

I wanted to love this book. Really, I did. For one, the cover is gorgeous. The earthy tones, glimpse of boned corset, swirly-curly, fancy-schmancy font. For a publisher to go all out like this on a debut novel, I thought, "This has gotta be good."  Judge a book by it's cover, right?  Hit and miss, I believe I admitted in a previous post.

Wildthorn was a miss for me. The premise of the story sounded interesting: Young Victorian girl (Louisa) locked up in an asylum (Wildthorn Hall), against her will (not that anyone is actually in an asylum because they wanna be, mind), faces various struggles, and, oh, by the way ... she prefers women. Now, I've never read a same-sex novel, let alone one of the YA variety. And while I'm on that subject, I would not--would not--recommend this to anyone under the age of 17. But back to the same-sex ordeal: I must say, while it was, at times, tastefully done, for the most part it gave me the hibbie-jibbies. Turned my stomach a little. Likely, I won't be reading another novel of this nature anytime soon.

Good points? The writing was decent, if simplistic; the history beautifully accurate. Ms. Eagland has no qualms with breathing life into the darkness of the Victorian Era. After all, conditions in asylums during those days were truly horrific, unsanitary, and cruel. Also, Louisa's toilsome journey proved decent enough to keep me reading 'til at least the halfway point.

But that's when I stopped caring. Various relationships and plot-points felt rushed. The writing even changed a bit, and not in a good way. I really think the author could've dug deeper into Louisa's character, given her more definition, made her more complex. For me, taking time to develop one's protagonist is of vast importance, especially if you expect his/her goals, motivations, and conflicts to make clear sense. Louisa, however, left me scratching my head a little too much.


Peace, Love, and Junior Mints,


Tuesday, February 7, 2012

5 Things I'm Lovin' Right Now

As The Hubby and I were walking out this past weekend to do, yes, more baby shopping (we still need a few annoying, yet necessary little odds-and-ends), I heard the hauntingly beautiful melody of my turtle dove. Why is he my turtle dove, you ask? I mean, I don't keep one in a cage out back or anything, but I do hear this lovely creature every single morning, without fail. His (or her, who knows?) song reminds me of childhood, of staying with my grandparents on their farm during the summertime. We woke up early each day, made coffee, went outside and sat on the porch, all to watch the mist rising over green, dewy grass and feel the cool morning air on our bare toes. And, yes, to listen to the low altos of turtle doves. Sometimes a quail would throw in her two shillings. Bob-White!

I'm telling you this, because I thought it might be fun to share a few things that are, to quote Dolly Parton, really meltin' my butter, a month and a week into 2012, 35 weeks into pregnancy...Lord above, I am so ready for this child to be born...and at a time in my life when small wonders mean the most.

1. Chopin.  I have always adored--chiefly--the piano compositions of  Frédéric Chopin. From late childhood, onto early adulthood, and finally now as I wind up the finishing chapters of my third historical romance, his sonatas, waltzes, nocturnes, and so forth have never failed to give my muse exactly what she needs for peace and creativity. My personal favorite? Fantasie Impromptu.

2. Kristan Higgins.  Contemporary romance author of what I would call stories with real heroes and heroines who have REAL-life issues and faults (and, by the way, aren't always the prettiest or most handsome specimens), Ms. Higgins just plain does it for me. Indulging in one of her books makes me want to write, gives me ideas, and, ultimately, ensures my ever-seeking muse that it's actually OK to write outside the box. My favorite Higgins novel to-date is Just One of the Guys.

3. The Hubby.  You'd think this is a given, right? Not always so. Come on, girls, you know you roll your eyes at him from time to time--OK, more like everyday. But my significant other is one of the really good ones. And, please, don't turn your eye-rolling on me just yet. He's an all-American boy: sports fanatic, hamburger-eating, jeans & worn-out t-shirt wearin' regular Joe. I mean, his favorite meal, y'all, is beans & weenies with mac 'n cheese. Seriously, right? All that aside, his most amazing quality--especially as of late--is his patience. On even my best days, I'm not the easiest chick to deal with. Flighty, redheaded temper and all that. But The Hubby gets me, manages to calm me down when I imagine it's impossible, and, ultimately, (and this is the best part) makes me smile, which more often than not stems from a goofy joke or face or some combination of both. Check out 100 Ways to Love Your Hubby here.

4. Cowboy Boots. Ariat, ATS™ technology, distressed brown leather, nothin' fancy, but man, do they fit my feet like a pair of doeskin gloves. Comfortable to boot (no pun intended), I'd likely permit the Judge to deduct a small amount from my paycheck, if I knew he'd let me get away with wearing them to work everyday. They're the ONLY shoe I own which distribute the weight I've gained easily enough to prevent excruciating soreness by day's end. Flat dress shoes--dress shoes period--are the Arch Enemy. Shop Ariat boots and outerwear here.

5. Welch's Sparkling Grape Juice. I'm a wine drinker, not to be confused with a lush or a wine-o or whatever sobriquet goes with those women who giggle and coo over glass after glass at the local bar. But a healthy tipple of cabernet sauvignon in the evening settles my nerves and takes the edge off the day. However, since I'm carrying Baby Jake and intend on giving him the best start after he's born, my half-glass of red has become a thing of the distant past. Enter Welch's and their fab bottle of fizzling magnificence. One glass every evening and my brain is successfully tricked into calming down, letting go of whatever idiot(s) I've had to deal with at the counter, and easing into the comfort of soft couch and good book. (And, thanks be to God, weight off feet.)

What are you loving right now?

Peace, Love, and Junior Mints,


Saturday, February 4, 2012

Do You Judge a Book by Its Cover?

Jennifer Haymore's stepback for
her debut novel, A Hint of Wicked.

Because I do. Well, not all the time, precisely, but I can't fib on this one. A beautiful cover catches my eye, makes the arm lift, hand reach out, fingers grasp that crisp piece of bound workmanship, wrist flip to read the back blurb, all to see if the premise matches the story already brewing in my head owing to that heady look in the Simon Baker look-a-like's eyes on ... ah, now we're turning over to the front cover again. Maybe even opening to see if there's an even lovelier stepback or, if you're a fantasy reader, a map of the world we're contemplating on entering for the next three to four hundred pages.

I'll go out on a limb here, speak for the majority of all writers, and state that every last one of us dreams of having a fabulous cover for our fragile, slaved-over, precious work of art. Why shouldn't we? We know what the story's about, how everyone will love it as much as we, if only given the opportunity--I'm ready to go in, Coach, just give me a chance!--so why not fantasize about a cover which shouts, "THIS is the book to read! Once you start, you'll be hooked!"

Naturally, a gorgeous, eye-catching cover can amount to a hit and miss. Really, you didn't actually think it'd be a win-win every time, did you? While I won't bite the hand that feeds and hit on those which landed in my Barnes & Nobles bag (heavens, how did that get there??) and, ultimately, wound up in a towering stack at the local secondhand bookstore, I will share a few that made the keeper shelf.

(above) At fifteen, when I saw this worn out paperback at a local 
garage sale, I loved the color of the woman's dress & the pretty flower
in her hair. Needless to say, for the low price of 25 cents, this became 
my very first adult romance novel. It's been special to me ever since.

This baby had managed to land on a $3 clearance table at
Books-a-Million. I saw the cover, picked it up, read somewhere
in the middle, liked what I saw, then flipped to the beginning. I've
been a HUGE Janet Mullany fan ever since. I can read Rules 
anyplace, anytime, and feel immediately at ease. A great find.

As a chick who used to ride English/Hunt Seat, this cover drew
me in almost instantaneously. Discard the gimmick in the upper
right hand corner (although Water for Elephants was a fantastic read); 
Ms. Gruen is a fabulous writer, funny, witty, and does her research.

The warm colors and fancy-schmancy script called my name
on this one. Seductively, as it were. Fab cover aside, Ms. Long is 
one of those gems a lot of romance readers don't know about; 
a true shame, because she's extremely talented, a stickler for detail 
and authenticity, and, boy, can she write a hero to love--faults & all.

What covers reeled you in, hook, line, & sinker? Did any of them found a permanent home on your keeper shelf? 

Peace, Love, and Junior Mints,

P.S. The very first picture, at the top of the post, is a wee little hint of what's coming later this month on SWBD. Believe me, you're gonna love it! :)
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