Monday, April 30, 2012

Z is for...

Zydeco. Last letter had to be something good, I thought, though at first I didn't know what in the world I would actually come up with for "Z." But this seemed wonderfully appropriate for two reasons: 1) I live in Louisiana, where this form of music was born and 2) I love, love, loooove it.

So, what is Zydeco? By definition, it's a unique American folk music created in Louisiana in the early 1800's. A form of Creole "la la," it combines French and Irish Celtic fiddle tunes with German button accordian, Latin styles, and washboards. In short, it's Cajun rhythm and blues.

Deriving from the French phrase Les haricots ne sont pas sales, meaning "the snap beans aren't salty," this catchy, blood-stirring music fills the damp streets of New Orleans, from the yawning doors of friendly pubs to the cracked sidewalks, where street performers play beside open instrument cases. It puts a smile on your face, a skip in your step. Paired with the aroma of succulent spices wafting around old brick buildings and iron latticed railings, why, you've got yourself quite the heady combination. Ain't nothin' like it, don't cha know?

Check out 4 year old Hunter Hayes payin' some Zydeco tribute with Hank Williams Sr.'s famous Jambalaya:

I'd like to extend a big, healthy thank you to all my new followers and to all who commented throughout the challenge. It's been an honor getting to know all of you, as well as checking out your way-awesome blogs. Laissez les bons temps rouler!

What did you enjoy most about the A-Z Challenge?

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Y is for...

Yodel. When I was a small child, I watched lots of Disney cartoons, many of which starred Goofy and his uncanny ability to yodel. We all remember that, yeah? Goofy, doggy feet lodged in a pair of skiis, perched at the top of a great, snowy mountain, ready to tip down the slope and, ultimately, tumble like a nincompoop. But before the grand display of inevitable catastrophe, Disney's most fun-loving dog (besides Pluto) let out a beautiful, melodic yodel.

So, what exactly is a yodel? Well, yodeling is the act of singing an extended note which fluctuates from chest voice (vocal) to head voice (falsetto) and back again in rapid and repeated succession. Think: high-low-high-low. It derives from the German word jodel, meaning to utter the syllable jo. Bill Monroe, the father of Bluegrass music, showed off his yodeling skills in several of his hits, including one of my favorites, Mule Skinner Blues. Since then, many stars have covered the ode to a mule driver, including the fabulous Dolly Parton.

Bluegrass girl at heart though I am, my most memorable experience with yodeling was at a Jewel concert I attended many years ago at the UNO Lakefront Arena in New Orleans. Jewel Kilcher prides herself in her talent for the age-old vocal technique.

Pretty cool, huh?

Have you ever heard someone yodel and yodel well?

Friday, April 27, 2012

X is for...

Xenophobia. One of my favorite books for Regency research is Dancing into Battle: A Social History of the Battle of Waterloo by Nick Foulkes. Within the first few chapters, the word xenophobia comes up in reference to one of the female members of the peerage--a countess, if memory serves--and her hesitance to go with her family to Brussels during the war. Several high falutin peeps thought it would be fun to make the journey 'cross sea to be near the excitement of battle. And it was fun, actually. Balls and soirees with hero officers. Rubbing elbows with foreigners, discovering new customs and cuisine. Most fashionable, as Jane Austen would say.

So, why was Countess Prissy-Pants so hesitant to go to Brussels? Why was she labeled by the author as a xenophobe?

The dictionary defines xenophobia as a fear of foreigners or strangers or that which is foreign or strange. She didn't like the Belgians. Thought they were nasty, too different, too un-like her own people. One gets the picture of a well-dressed lady with her nose turned up in the air, lip curled, and the word, "Ewwww..." just dangling on the tip of her educated tongue. Right?

But this is actually a common occurrence even in today's society. Especially with Americans, though I have heard of a few other countries who don't like us (Americans) either. And I have to wonder, why is that? Why are we so hesitant and standoffish against that which is different or foreign or strange? I mean, I'm hesitant to eat at an Indian restaurant, because the smell of curry makes me shiver--and not in a good way. Maybe I should just bite the bullet and go for it. Certainly seems like a better deal than being labeled a xenophobe.

Anything foreign or strange you're scared of?

Thursday, April 26, 2012

W is for...

Wordsworth. I'm not much on poetry. Not that I don't like it, mind, but oftentimes I end up scratching my head, wondering, "What in the world is this supposed to mean?"

Guess I just wasn't born to interpret that sort of art.

In any event, I do adore William Wordsworth. A major contributor to the Romantic Age in English literature, Mr. Wordsworth made his writerly debut in 1787, when he published a sonnet in The European Magazine (1782-1826). Unfortunately, he did not live to see his most famous work published. The Prelude was released shortly after his death by his wife, Mary.

Some interesting facts? Other than to breathe, his nose was virtually useless. Seriously. He suffered from anosmia, which is the inability to smell. He was also an orphan, and considered Samuel Taylor Coleridge, another famous English poet, to be his best friend.

Here's one of my favorites:

She dwelt among the untrodeen ways
Beside the springs of Dove,
A Maid whom there were none to praise
And very few to love;

A violet by a mossy stone
Half hidden from the eye!
--Fair as a star, when only one
Is shining in the sky.

She lived unknown, and few could know
When Lucy ceased to be;
But she is in her grave, and, oh,
The difference to me.

Do you have a favorite poet? If so, who?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

V is for...

Victoria. Queen, that is. Longest ruling monarch in UK history, serving for sixty-three years and seven months. A major influence on the time period in which she lived, vibrant and quick-witted Alexandrina Victoria was a grand advocate for morality and family values, as well as modest dress for all occasions and restraining one's sexuality in public situations--a big difference from the previous, openly frivolous era of the Regency.

While I won't bore you with a complete biographical account of one of the most memorable queens in history, I will share 5 cool facts I discovered while researching an historical YA novel.

1. She took the throne four days after her eighteenth birthday.

2. She married her first cousin, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. They had nine children, all of whom married into nobility. When Albie died in 1861, Victoria mourned him deeply, even going so far as to have his clothes laid out every single day, until her own demise. I guess it's safe to say they were a "love match."

3. A queen of mostly German descent, her first language was actually German. However, she fluently spoke English, French, and Hindustani.

4. She was the first monarch to travel by train (1842).

5. Unlike the queens before her, she wore a white wedding dress to her wedding. At the time, this trend had just started gaining popularity.

Is there a particular person in history you find interesting above others? If so, who?


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

U is for...

Ulta. Yesterday, I paid homage to Target. Today, I pay homage to Ulta, the ultimate beauty store. I'm a total make-up geek. Have been since I was little, as I mentioned in a previous post. Nowadays, we can purchase make-up, hair products, and just about any beauty stuff imaginable at almost any major retailer. Even the dollar store.

However, no other retailer smacks girly-freaking-heaven when you walk through the front door than Ulta. Some chick will always say, "Hi! Welcome to Ulta!" And, of course, you're all, "Thanks!" because, oh my goodness, the new Urban Decay eyeshadow palette displayed front and center just said, "Look at my new fantastic shades wrapped up in kick-ass packaging!" and you're now officially so excited, the old ticker's kicked into overdrive. So much to take in at once!

They carry everything from prestige to drugstore cosmetics, not to mention hair products and tools, skincare, and a full-blown salon at the rear. Oh, and they will always have whatever's new first. Which, when you're crazy about the latest trends in make-up like I am, is a very, very good thing.

For you guys out there, the only thing I can compare it to is maybe Best Buy or the comic book store. When The Hubby walks into BB, he all but jumps up and down like a 5 yr old in a candy shop. And we go up and down every aisle, regardless if we actually need a jump drive or a television series dvd or a new stereo system. But I can't blame him, because that's what I'm like in an Ulta. I mean, what if I miss something? Oh, heck, no.

Any place make your heart go pitter-patter? Don't worry, I won't tell. ;)

Monday, April 23, 2012

T is for...

Target. Now, here's a store I never in a million years imagined might someday turn into my #1 go-to retailer.

And I think I've used "go-to" at least once in the last three posts, this one included.

Oh, well.

This 1962 Minnesota native chain store is second only to Walmart as far as retail popularity and sales. But that's just a little bit of background for your brain. Here's why I love it. When Baby Jake was still cooking in the womb, I received numerous gift cards to Target. Obviously we've long since used up all our "free cash," but even now, 7 weeks into Jake's break into the big world, we still go to Target for our basic needs. That's almost everything with the exception of groceries. They have a wonderful selection, excellent customer service, and good quality products at a decent price. Yes, they're more expensive than Walmart, but I'd tackle a Target-crowd anyday over a Walmart one.

Don't even act like you don't know what I'm talking about.

If you've still got a kid in diapers, their Up & Up brand of booty-covers work great at a great price. Really, their brand of anything is good. Even food, though we buy that at our air force base commissary.

So, what's your favorite go-to (there it is again!) store?

Saturday, April 21, 2012

S is for...

Sneaker Pimps. One of my most favorite bands of all time, these guys. Based out of Hartlepool, England, they're a delicious mix between Massive Attack (love them, too) and ... oh, I don't know. Plumb or something. Maybe even a little Death Cab for Cutie. Good stuff. They also date me a little, I suppose; I'm a 90's child, so bands like Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Stone Temple Pilots, and Smashing Pumpkins really melt my butter.

Anyways! They're my go-to for writing soundtracks, because they do lovely things to my muse. Why? Can't explain, sorry. But give a listen to Half Life, the first track on the 1999 album Splinter, and maybe my obsession will make some sense.
Then again, maybe not.

What music inspires your muse?

By the way, Sneaker Pimps got their name from an article the Beastie Boys published about a man they hired to track down classic sneakers.


Friday, April 20, 2012

R is for...

Reading. As writers, we're expected to read. But what most people don't realize is that it's actually hard to find time to read when you're a writer. Writing can consume major amounts of time, whether it's actually pecking away at the keyboard, plotting, storyboarding, filling out character charts, researching, or merely thinking about the novel. Not to mention we have to find some time to eat, do laundry (nice to have clean underwear, right?), and sleep. And a fair lot of us work day jobs, too.

So, time to read? A luxury, for certain. However, because I write and have an affinity for writing well, I love to explore the written word as much as possible. The challenge these days, especially with the rise in indie pubishing, is finding authors or, in the very least, an author who you can thoroughly enjoy and respect.

While I've a plethora of go-to authors I frequent whenever I'm writing or am in the mood for a good book (this often opens when I've read a chain of bad ones), I thought I'd share two whose works I've read recently and for the first time.

1. Julie Cantrell. Her debut novel, Into the Free, landed in my inbox one morning as the Kindle Daily Deal on I checked it out, read the sample, a few of the reviews, and decided to give it a whirl. A wonderful read, this book. Set in Southern Mississippi during the Depression Era, the novel is told through the eyes of young Millie Reynolds, who struggles with an abusive father, a drug addict mother, and, ultimately, to find a place where she belongs. Beautiful imagery. Exceptional writing.

2. Tracey Garvis-Graves. This is another one who hooked me with a debut novel. On the Island is about thirty year old school teacher Anna Emerson, who is offered and accepts a job tutoring sixteen year old T.J. Callahan at his family's vacation spot in the Maldives. While they're en route to join the Callahan family, the pilot of their seaplane has a heart attack and the plane crashes, leaving Anna and T.J. stranded on a deserted island. This story is about their journey, struggles, and immenent relationship, which, despite their age difference, is not at all wierd, I promise. Great research, good writing, if simplistic. Lovely story--can't stress this one enough. A definite keeper.

What are you reading?

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Q is for...

Quotes. Not a stock quote or a quote on a new car. Although, I would love to get a good, affordable quote on a red Mini Cooper Countryman with racing stripes and Union Jacks painted on the mirrors. Baby Jake and I would look SUPER cool drivin' down the highway in one of those babies, lemme tell ya.

But, no. Today, I'm talking about quotes of wisdom. Cool stuff said by cool people. Call 'em what you want. I'm a quotes person. Write 'em down on the oddest places sometimes--napkins, gum wrappers, the inside of my checkbook, palm of my hand. At the day job, I'm the one who writes a quote on the breakroom dry-erase board every Friday.

Yep, that's me. Quote Girl.

So, for the "Q" challenge, I figured I'd share a few of my favorite quotes with you.

"Look well into thyself; there is a source of strength which will always spring up if thou wilt always look there." - Marcus Aurelius

"Where liberty dwells, there is my country." - Benjamin Franklin

"Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear -- not absence of fear." - Mark Twain

"'Tis better to be silent and be thought a fool, than to speak and remove all doubt." - Abraham Lincoln

"Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm." - Sir Winston Churchill

What's one of your favorite quotes?


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

P is for...

Pixiwoo. Since I was a little girl, sitting on a closed toilet seat, watching Momma get ready for work, I have loved makeup. In awe and silence I would watch as she slathered on moisturizer, smoothed foundation over her cheeks, nose, and temples, carefully blending so her face matched her neck to perfection. She'd dust on powder, eyeshadow, and eyeliner, two coats of mascara, and burgundy lip color. And then she'd blot once with a square of toilet tissue.

This was everyday routine for my mother, even on weekends. Why get dolled up if you're not planning on going out? "Because it makes me feel good," she'd say, while gazing into the mirror and fluffing out her hair.

While I don't wear it every single day of my life, especially since I spend most hours at home with my new baby boy, I do have a terrible passion for all things makeup and hair.

So, why is this addition to the A-Z Challenge entitled Pixiwoo instead of, duh, makeup? So glad you asked! A year or so ago, via YouTube, I discovered a pair of sister makeup artists named Samantha and Nicola Chapman. Brilliant artists, the both of them. They record video makeup tutorials to help us ordinary little folks favor people like Scarlett Johansson instead of MiMi from The Drew Carey Show. Celebrity looks, everyday looks, even Halloween how-to's. And each features a list of products used, which is a wonderful way to try new stuff.

And they do it with their beautiful, polished British accents, which is fabulous, of course, because everything sounds better in a British accent.

Needless to say, they have quickly become my most searched vloggers on YouTube.

Check out the sisters' site at:

You can also purchase Samantha's line of Real Techniques makeup application brushes at your local Ulta store.

Do you ever surf YouTube? If so, what's your #1 most searched?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

O is for...


Sir Winston Churchill said, "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."

Me? I'm a natural-born pessimist. Sounds bad, I know. But hear me out. The reasoning behind this pessimism is simple: If I don't get my hopes up, I won't seep into the valley of disappointment, right?

Well. Sometimes that's true. More often, however, it's just me chickening out, because I'm scared. "Of what?" I can almost hear my mother asking me. "How will you ever know, unless you try? And if you fall, you get right back up and try again!"

You guessed it. Mom's an optimist. She's also right, and here's why I chose this word for today's A-Z Challenge: I need to practice optimism. In writing, in my everyday life. As human beings, when we get stressed out and self-awareness kicks in, we often feel anxious, frustrated, and downright irritated. The science behind that is the hormone cortisol, which is released when you're experiencing that crazy onslaught of emotions.

However, reality says that we can actually control the craziness and, if you will, brush ourselves off and get back in the saddle. How? Well, the first step is to acknowledge what's causing the tension. Then, take a deep breath, slow down (that's a big one for me), and move forward, leaving the anxiety and frustration behind. Set goals for yourself. Start small, show initiative, have the commitment to stick with your goals. Once you've achieved them, set more.

These gradual accomplishments build optimism, so that when stress comes again--and it will--we know how to knock it outta the park.

How do you stay optimistic?

Interesting fact: Did you know that laughing and keeping a good sense of humor actually lowers cortisol levels? Cool, huh?

Monday, April 16, 2012

Debut Author Spotlight: Bonnie Rae & Nether Bound

N is also for Nether Bound, the debut novel by YA author Bonnie Rae. Today, she joins us to talk about her new paranormal adventure romance for teens and adults alike.

Bonnie, thank you for being a guest with SWBD! As a debut author, what would you like readers to know about you as an intro? Maybe give us a little background behind the writer?

I started writing at a really young age. I remember creating little books out of string and construction paper as a kid. Back then they were mostly stories about my dolls and my little ponies. As I got older the fascination for books and writing only grew larger. I penned my first full fledge novel at the age of sixteen. Hand written on college ruled notebook paper, front and back. I can’t say it was any good, but I loved doing it and never stopped. 

Tell us a bit about Nether Bound. What was your main inspiration?

Seventeen year old Ava Walker had everything a girl could ask for, she was captain of the cheer squad, had tons of friends, and could easily have any guy she wanted. Being popular was easy.

Lying about her entire life wasn't.

Ava has a few problems. Her step-father is an abusive alcoholic, her ex best friend isn’t who she thought he was, and oh yeah, she can see the dead.

With one wish Ava thinks she can make it all disappear. But when that wish actually comes true she realizes what that old saying meant:

Be careful what you wish for.

I was actually at a writing conference when the idea for Nether Bound hit me. I’ll never forget it because a really good agent was talking, but all of a sudden I was swept up in a scene and had to start writing it down. Needless to say, I never really heard what that agent was talking about.  That scene is actually the “park” scene in chapter four and it’s my favorite scene in the whole book.

We always hear how writers grow through the creation of every story. Now that you're finished, what would you say you learned through the course of this novel?

In the end, this is your story. No matter what a beta reader or crit partner argues with you about. It is your story; never give in to the demands of others if it changes the entire vision.

Would you call yourself a "Pantser" or a "Plotter?"

Both, but I am more of a plotter. I usually outline the book and chapters for two weeks before I start the first draft so I have a good idea of when everything needs to happen. The pantser part kicks in when a character starts to take matters into their own hands and demand I change things up a bit. And sometimes I have very demanding characters!

What is your writing process? Do you keep notebooks? Use a storyboard?

I use notecards like my life depended on it. And those lovely notecards get pinned to my cork board, which is essentially my storyboard. I usually have all the chapters lined up in chronological order with little sticky notes tucked in here and there. I also do character sheets for each main character and pin those up next to the board. For my last two books I have done character/story collages and hang them up above the pin board. It looks like this:

Where do you get your ideas?

Where don’t I get ideas? Oh man, they come to me 24/7 and from all sorts of things. Music is a big one, though. I will often hear a song and a scene will just materialize in my head.

What advice would you give to young writers out there?

Never give up. I know this gets said a lot, but I can’t stress enough how true it is. All kinds of forces will try and stop you, but just keep going. And in the end, remember it’s your story. 

If you had to name one person who inspired your craft the most, who would it be?

I can’t pick just one, because it would have to be both of my grandparents. No matter what they always told me to be strong and never give up.

Anything else you'd like to add?

Thank you so much for taking the time to interview me.  You, and all the other bloggers, book reviewers, and the entire writing community are such a great inspiration and source of motivation.
Thank you, Bonnie! We're super excited about the release of Nether Bound, and wish you much luck and many blessings for your future writing endeavors.  YOU, dear reader, can get connected with Bonnie on Facebook & Twitter. Follow her blog at Bonnie Rae, Just Words. Keep updated with the newest news and releases at

GIVEAWAY: ONE lucky commenter will receive an e-copy of Nether Bound, so make sure to include your email address with your comment! This contest closes this Friday, April 20, 2012 @ midnight CST.

N is for...

Nickname. Sobriquet. Just rolls right off the tongue, doesn't it? We've all had or got one, right? Whether it was in school, at home, at the office. All of the above. And, nine times outta ten, you either like your nickname or fiercely hate it.

First, a little background on nicknames. In the fourteenth century, folks used the word ekename, which literally means "additional name." Over time, however, people started mispronouncing the word. Go figure. And so nekename was born and, eventually, what we know today as nickname.

In England, especially in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, members of the peerage were almost always called by their titles, instead of their given Christian names. For example, John Smith, Lord Camden, would be called Camden. And more than likely his close friends and family would simply call him "Cam." Even today, we refer to Prince William as "Wills."

Some authors and artists use what we refer to as "pen names."  This could be for several different reasons--maybe their real name just any catchy enough, or perhaps they may appeal to a bigger audience with a different name.  Take J.K. Rowling.  Her real name is Joanne "Jo" Rowling, but her agent and editor felt she would appeal to more readers (boys and girls, children and adults) if she used only her initials. She didn't have a middle name, so she merged her paternal grandmother's name, Kathleen, with her first and ... voila! She's J.K. in print!

My given name is Alyssia Nicole, but most know me in person as Nikki. My mother affectionately refers to me as "Lyssa," while one of my very good friends from high school still, to this day, calls me "Red."  Oh, and my critique partner calls me "Q.T." because--she claims--I am the Queen of Tease when it comes to writing. *smile*

Do you have a nickname? And if so, what is it?

Saturday, April 14, 2012

M is for...

Mothers. Mine is my hero and best friend, the most amazing, interesting, and wise person I've ever met, my inspiration, my shield and my rock. Truly, there is no other person in existence like her. She's stood by me through what seems like an eternity of ups and downs, and as a new mother, I only hope I can live up to that kind of heroism for my baby boy.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes for mothers:

"All that I am or ever hope to be, I owe to my angel mother."  -Abraham Lincoln

"A mother is the truest friend we have, when trials, heavy and sudden, fall upon us; when adversity takes the place of prosperity; when friends who rejoice with us in our sunshine, desert us when troubles thicken around us, still will she cling to us, and endeavour by her kind precepts and counsels to dissipate the clouds of darkness, and cause peace to return to our hearts."  -Washington Irving

"The God to whom little boys say their prayers has a face very like their mother's."  -James Matthew Barrie

What's one of the qualities you love/loved most about your mom? Mine is a sucker for anything animal print, a trait both crazy and endearing. No matter where I am, if I see something in cheetah or zebra, I think of her and smile.

Friday, April 13, 2012

L is for...

Levitate. If there's one supernatural ability I'd love to have, it's gotta be levitation. Why? Something about floating, feeling the soft air beneath my feet, and being able to, pretty much, fly wherever I want to go seems like a pretty good deal.

The first time I encountered levitation in print was R.A. Salvatore's first Dark Elf Trilogy book, Homeland. The dark elves--or Drow elves, as Salvatore calls them--have the learned ability to levitate. Hero Drizzt Do'Urden often uses this ability when traveling or spying on enemies.

Characters are often able to levitate via spellcasting in roleplaying games. The Hubby and I played Everquest for years (High Elf cleric, yeah!), and one simply did not travel any sort of distance without having some sort of levitation spell in their buff bar. Preferably with a side of something to accelerate your run speed, too. Now we're really flyin'!

If you could have any supernatural ability, what would it be?

Thursday, April 12, 2012

K is for...

Kindle. Love mine. Couldn't live without it. OK, maybe that's not precisely true, but I do adore this sweet little device that allows me to read book after book without moving my arse from chair to car to public bookstore. Does that mean I've given up the real thing? ie. paper- and hardbacks? Heck, no! I still love the feel of a book in my hand.

However, I cannot deny the amazing feeling of checking my email every morning to see the "Kindle Daily Deal" in my inbox.  99 cent books? Come on! Who doesn't love that?? Not to mention that Amazon, one, has this amazing feature called "Send Me a Sample," where I can read the first several pages to three chapters or so without the commitment of purchasing... and two, Amazon also has this cool little button: Buy Now with 1-Click!  Obviously, the latter is a bit more dangerous than the former, as we've so often seen when we get our checking account statement.

Do you have an eReader? If so, how do you like it?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

J is for...

Java. Joe. Take your pick. Coffee! That's right. One of my favorite--scratch that--my favorite beverage in the "wide world," as Forrest Gump would say, is coffee. Not only is it delicious and stimulating when you're trying to wake up in the wee hours of morning and launch yourself into the land of the living, it produces those interesting little buggers called endorphins. And according to Elle from Legally Blonde, endorphins make you... what? Happy!

Other than for your overall emotional well-being, check out what other stuff java's good for:

1. Take some along when you're shopping for perfume. Alternate from coffee to fragrance, and you won't get one version of Armani mixed up with the next.

2. Coffee grounds sprinkled in flower beds prevents little critters from munching on them. It also enriches the soil. (The Hubby does this for his roses, and it really works!!)

3. Grounds can also be used to clean stain resistant surfaces. The mild abrasive elements removes grease, and it smells great, too!

What's your beverage of choice?
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