Tuesday, March 29, 2011

It's Here

Fifteen months ago I was browsing various author and reader websites when I ran across a notice of a little contest that would be held during the month of February 2010. Avon was asking readers who enjoyed the anthology "It Happened One Night" to supply possible plot points for a repeat performance, this time titled "It Happened One Season." I read the contest rules, did a little pondering, and came up with this:

The younger brother of a titled lord, the hero had a career in the army but has lived as a recluse since returning from the war with France.

Heroine is shy or unattractive and after many seasons has never had a suitor.

Hero's brother has only daughters and asks his brother to marry in order to try to ensure that succession stays within their family.

I was inspired, I think, by all of the things I'd learned over the years about British laws of succession and their social, economic, and familial importance. At any rate, I submitted my little entry and moved on. In all honesty, I NEVER expected my entry to garner any attention. But February rolled around, the finalists were announced, and there I was. Finalist #2.

I told my family. I told some friends. I told the half dozen of you who read this blog. They voted for my plot. You voted for my plot. And several hundred total strangers voted for my plot. And suddenly it became "my" book.

Wow. A book inspired by my idea. 

And today, one year and two weeks after the voting ended, it's here. In stores. On my Kindle. There's even a copy out there that has been signed by Stephanie, Mary, and Candice. I've been told it's on its way to Jacquie who will sign it and send it on to me. With luck, I'll have it by next week.

Want to read more? There's a review up at AAR, here.

Super Wendy tweeted today about an article in RT, here. It's interesting reading about the making of IHOS with comments by all four authors about what they thought of my winning idea and how they handled it.

Avon asked me if I'd consent to a short interview, which of course I did. I have a short set of questions to answer and that should appear on the Avon Romance blog in the coming days.

On top of all this goodness, as the winner I received a $1000 Amex gift card. I spent months deciding how to spend it. And in a few days I'll let you know what I did.

Meanwhile, to all of you who got excited along with me, THANK YOU! What fun this has been, especially being able to share it with my online friends and fellow romance lovers. You know, it just wouldn't have been as interesting without you. If you read it, I sincerely hope it lives up to your expectations. And if it doesn't --well, thanks for trying.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Blooming 9-Patch

This is a smaller version of the Blooming 9-Patch pattern made popular by the book Tradition with a Twist by Blanche Young and Dalene Young-Stone which was first published in 1996. I don't remember precisely when I first saw a quilt made out of this pattern, but it probably wasn't long after 1996. All I know is that I wanted to make one for years. My mother-in-law gifted me with the fabric for this quilt for my birthday about a year before she passed away. Although I had finished the top before she died, because she lived 2500 miles away she never got to see the finished top. The fabric was purchased at Quilting in the Country in Bozeman, MT when we were vacationing together in Yellowstone. We had a great day together and it has become a special memory; this quilt will always be in honor of her.

So here's a former UFO that I finished two nights ago after only 5.5 years. Sometimes I make a quilt in less than two weeks. Sometimes it takes a few years.

Miss you, Oma.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

One Week to Go!

"My" book is released a week from today. Are you ready? I'm so anxious to read it I can hardly stand it. I'm supposed to get a copy signed by all 4 authors. With one living in Australia, another in Canada, and the other two in different parts of the U.S., well, it could take awhile. I've pre-ordered a copy for my Kindle. Meanwhile, I've had to content myself with some excerpts.

Mary's is here.

Candice has one here.

No other excerpts that I could find. I'll just have to wait and contain my jealousy over the fact that Wendy's library got a copy and she's seen it.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Baby Quilt

This is from the Maple Island BQ2 pattern, and measures around 52" x 65". Not exactly a "baby" quilt, but it is for a young couple about to have their first child, most likely a girl. The new baby's grandmother is one of my best friends and I remember when S. was 7 years old. In fact I babysat for S. and her brothers more than once. So it was pretty exciting to make this for her.

This pattern is also darn easy. I finished it in less than 2 weeks; in fact I put the final stitch in the binding about an hour and a half before the baby shower started. I'd say there's a total of only 15-16 hours in it. I showed off some of the machine quilting here. I can show it off again, though!

This is the second time I've made this pattern for a baby. Here's a smaller version, about 36" x 45" and the blocks are laid out in a different pattern. I made the one below about 2 years ago.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

TBR Day. Spring Break / Kayla Perrin. 2010.

This is a book I bought last spring at the RT booksigning. Pretty cover, no? Anyhow, I've been meaning to read it for ages now and this was the perfect book for this month's theme of "New To Me" author. Kayla Perrin has written several dozen books in a wide variety of genres-- category romance, mainstream fiction, mass market romance, children's fiction, and romantic suspense. I had a very nice chat with Ms. Perrin at the booksigning. Currently she has some recent releases in Harlequin's Kimani line as well as some other RS titles published in trade-sized like this one.

Spring Break is a romantic suspense novel told in the first person by Chantelle, the heroine, who is one of three college friends traveling together to a Caribbean island for (you guessed it!) Spring Break and meet up with Trouble. Chantelle, Erica, and Ashley are close friends and all three are aspiring authors. They've signed up for a week-long package deal on the fictional island of Artula. The package includes all of the sun, surf, sex, food, and alcohol they can soak up. When Ashley disappears, Chantelle tries not to worry because hook-ups are the name of the game. Finally, though, Chantelle realizes something is wrong and her quest to find Ashley leads her to Jason, another American who happens to be on the island to investigate the disappearances of other women. Ashley, who is the white blond on the cover, could very well have been the victim of human trafficking. Jason shows Chantelle his files about women who look like Ashley and have been missing. As Jason, Chantelle, and Erica attempt to re-trace Ashley's steps they begin to fear the worst as they run into corrupt police and murder.

There's a lot going on in this book and while Perrin weaves all of the themes together very well, it began to be too much. There's the friendship between the 3 women that underlies everything. There are also personal issues that each of them is dealing with as they go to Artula to try and escape their problems. There are troubling family dynamics (some of which show up when Ashley's parents arrive in Artula). There is, of course, the mystery of Ashley's disappearance. In the course of searching for Ashley, Chantelle learns things about her friend that she never suspected. And finally there is Chantelle's budding relationship with Jason. With so much going on this is a page-turner that kept me reading. But it also meant that certain aspects lacked depth. Since I primarily read for the romance, the fact that the romantic relationship in the book had to compete with all of the other stuff going on made the book less satisfying on an emotional level.

I have to say that I read this feeling every one of my 53 years. The hedonism surrounding spring breaks is certainly something that makes the news when a tragedy occurs, but at the risk of sounding like an old prude, some of the behaviors of college students on break made me cringe. Danger, Will Robinson, Danger! See? I'm 53. Anyhow, it was still fascinating. In the long run this was a fast, enjoyable read that simply lacked the emotional pay-off I would have preferred. I certainly liked it well enough that I'll try some of Perrin's straight romances soon.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Quilts for Cancer Patients

There's a large university hospital in my town with a well-regarded cancer treatment center. There are all kinds of groups that provide services to patients and their families to help ease their way through the painful realities that come with a diagnosis of cancer. One of those groups provides quilts to cancer patients. This group started out in 2005 by making and giving quilts to breast cancer patients. Last year they expanded the program and now children receiving chemotherapy and thoracic cancer patients each get a quilt. My guild got involved and this spring will donate at least 50 quilts to the program.

Last fall a whole bunch of us received fabric remnants from the kind folks at Connecting Threads. So here's a look at the quilts my QBFFs & I made. First up is QBFF A's. Simple, yet so striking. I love this.

Next up is QBFF T's.  She used a scrappy pattern to create hidden pinwheels. This is fun to look at to see the patterns emerge.

This one is mine:

All three of these used the same fabrics. Look how different they are!

And here are some of the other quilts turned in by fellow guild members. Again, all of us using the same fabrics.

Here's a picture of a totally different quilt. Someone else made the top and I quilted it. There are lots of folks who prefer to make just the tops. I volunteered to quilt it because it's great practice. I can fool around with all-over designs and refine my technique.

Here's that quilt I made again. Can you find the mistake? Actually, I made the same mistake twice. And I never noticed until the quilt was finished.

Here's a hint. One turquoise block and one orange block.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Phyl's 5 Phaves from February

Short month. Short reading list. Plus I've been very productive on the quilting side. I need to get pictures up.

5. Exclusively Yours by Shannon Stacey. This book received a lot of positive buzz when it came out last year and it was one of my first Kindle purchases.  I finally got around to reading it and thoroughly enjoyed it. Keri and Joe had been high school sweethearts and everyone, including both of them, expected them to marry and wind up together. Except upon graduation, Keri abruptly decided to go to California for college, leaving Joe behind and breaking his heart. Nearly two decades later Joe is a wildly successful but reclusive author of horror novels and Keri has an excellent job as a reporter for a well-known Hollywood gossip magazine. When Keri's boss finds out that Keri used to date Joe, Keri is sent home to get an interview with Joe. Joe agrees to the interview as long as it's on his terms-- which are that Keri has to accompany him and his family (parents, siblings, and their children) on their annual camping vacation. The setup for Keri and Joe's reunion is really very humorous. And as light-hearted as these parts are, there's also as much depth. Keri needs to be able to tell Joe why she left all those years ago and they both have to come to terms with how that decision made them who they are today. Their week-long vacation together allows them to open up to one another and they rediscover the love they once had for one another. I liked the pacing and how we learn why Keri made the choices she did.

4. Wild Man Creek by Robyn Carr. I've said before that I'm totally in love with Carr's Virgin River series of books about the almost Utopian community she writes about. The book that came just before this one, Promise Canyon, was a bit of a disappointment. It seemed that Carr spent too much time bringing in all of the Virgin River "extras" and that took away from the central characters of that book. So I was a little nervous going in. Not that I was ready to jump off the bandwagon yet of course. Fortunately this book did a much better job of focusing on Jillian and Colin and when the other VR characters appear it felt more normal. Jillian has been forced to take a leave of absence from her job and she has come to VR to lick her wounds and wait out the storm. Colin is also recuperating-- in his case from serious physical wounds he received in a helicopter crash. Colin is a character who seems to be floundering while he figures out what he's going to do with the rest of his life. Jillian is much quicker to figure out what's next and I liked her enthusiastic, take charge character. Carr gives us lots of Jillian in this book and I think that's why I enjoyed it so much.

3. Land of Dreams by Cheryl St. John. This was reviewed by Wendy for her February TBR Challenge. (Wendy, the RWA Librarian of the Year, I might add.) I had to stop for fuel on the way home from work that day and my stop was literally two blocks from the UBS. So I added a stop and, sure enough, scored a copy. I ended up reading it within a few days of bringing it home and it really lived up to my expectations after reading Wendy's review. This 1995 historical is chock full of goodness. When I was done I immediately passed it along to the QBFFs to read. You can check out Wendy's review if you didn't see it earlier. She's right. This one should be digitized.

2. What I Did for a Duke by Julie Anne Long. I have not read one of Long's books in years. I had not planned on reading this either because while I was entertained by what I read I found that the "wallpaper" aspects bothered me. But I kept seeing one rave review after another, so giving in to curiosity I picked this one up at the library. I was especially skeptical because this contains a revenge plot-- as I mentioned here, I'm not fond of revenge plots. Fortunately, the revenge aspect is turned on its side in an interesting way and the book really focuses on the developing relationship between Alex and Genevieve. This turned into an absorbing, entertaining, fun, and emotional read for me. It was much more than I expected. I fully understand why so many bloggers are raving about this book. There were a few spots where the language seemed anachronistic and I was disappointed that the resolution between Alex and Genevieve comes at the very, very end of the book. Nonetheless, I have to admit I really am glad I chose to read it.

1. When Beauty Tamed the Beast by Eloisa James. James's latest book is, as the title suggests, a take on the classic "Beauty and the Beast" fairy tale. In addition, the hero, Piers, is modeled on the character Gregory House from the TV show House, MD (there's an author's note at the end of the book regarding this as well as something on her website). Piers walks with a painful limp due to a childhood injury. The chronic pain makes him cranky. Despite being in line to inherit a dukedom, Piers is estranged from his father and has led an independent life studying medicine. His father despairs of him marrying and carrying on the title, so he arranges for Linnet--a young woman who has scandalized society and needs a husband fast--to marry Piers. The Duke takes Linnet to meet Piers in his remote home that he has turned into a small hospital of sorts. (Piers even has doctors-in-training who follow him around trying to diagnose various illnesses.) Even though Piers is determined to never marry, he finds himself falling for Linnet. This is a bit of a dilemma for him because of his estrangement from his father. In turn it leads to an interesting subplot involving Piers's parents. WBTTB was fun and engaging. I loved how James married the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale with the modern TV show. Sure, this probably totally meets the definition of "wallpaper historical" but good writing, clever characters, witty dialog, and an engrossing plot trump wallpaper any day. I loved it.