Friday, March 29, 2013

Cat Love

In a cat's heart, nothing says "I love you" like a dead rodent or bird on the welcome mat.

As much as the gifts of my felines makes me cringe, I have to admit--I think maybe our female cat loves me less than the boys do. This morning, Clio left the following offering on the patio: a bird head, a beak and a handful of pin feathers. She didn't leave me so much as a bite to eat. ((sniff))

Luckily, Jake, our youngest cat doesn't hunt...or at least doesn't catch anything. He is the most civilized of pussies--drooling, purring and licking fingers to demonstrate his affection.

Now, I've complained about Rocket Squirrel, but as a point in his favor, I will say this:

Most of his presents are still alive. Thus, returnable.

During the summer, Rocket often comes home after dark. Mr. Snark unwittingly throws open the patio sliding glass door without ever looking at what the damn cat has in his mouth. The pair of them are a real dynamic duo when it comes to bringing home the vermin. 

Eventually, Mrs. Snark fell into the habit of shouting, "Don't let that cat inside without looking to see what he has in his mouth first!"

Over the course of one summer, Rocket carried inside ONE living mouse and TWO live rats.

Rocket plays catch and release. The second he sets foot inside, the cat opens his mouth and BOOM--the rodent runs free. Then the pussy loses interest and walks off. Bored now. But wait, this cardboard box is fascinating...

The poor mouse lasted a couple weeks, surviving by nibbling the stems of house plants to stay alive, before Mr. Snark found the half-starved thing and took it back outside.

The rats were a whole 'nother story. One eventually fell prey to the cats and was found dead within the bathroom. Imagine if you will, Mrs. Snark balanced on one foot, the other poised directly over the rat corpse, screaming at the top of her lungs. Not Pretty.

The second rat incursion resulted in an epic Rodent Hunt. Mr. and Mrs. Snark cornered the terrified creature in the downstairs bathroom and spent a solid forty-five minutes chasing it around the room, trying to corner it. Finally, Mr. Snark grabbed the rat by the tail (he wore heavy gloves), carried it outside and tossed it over the fence.

In addition, three live birds have been carried into the house, grasped tenderly by the back of the necks like kittens. Thankfully, two flew away after every window in the house had been left wide open. The third wound up being taken to an animal rescue and set the Snarks back fifty bucks.

Still, those presents were whole and intact.

There's really not much very appetizing about a bloody beak...

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Book Review: Take Me Now by Nancy Jardine


Nairn Malcolm’s looking for the impossible. He needs a highly skilled, enterprising aide who’ll be at his beck and call 24/7. No ordinary Jane Doe will do. He doesn’t expect the only candidate who drops in at his Scottish castle for an interview to be so competent…or so stunning. 

Aela Cameron’s got exactly the right mix of talents to satisfy all Nairn Malcolm’s needs, and more. She loves the jobs he needs done, adores his castle, and finds his frenetic lifestyle energising. But she’s only looking for temporary: not to fall in love with the man. 

Can Nairn convince Aela she’s tailor-made for him in every way… and not a passing fancy?


"Take Me Now" is a fun contemporary romance set in Scotland, a swift-paced story with humorous moments that will leave the reader laughing and sighing. All in all, the story has an amazing setting. Nancy Jardine does a wonderful job of transporting the audience to Scotland with breathtaking descriptions of the landscape. The author does a great job with dialogue, bringing the brogue of our hero to life within the reader's imagination.

Nairn Malcolm is a wounded hero. Literally. The story kicks off following a motorcycle accident that left the poor man with broken limbs and ribs, not to mention a concussion rendering him almost nonsensical. His mental incapacity leads to some of the funniest moments in the book, right in the opening chapters. Nairn starts off cagey, an "ogre" in Aela's words, and the reader proceeds with a mental image of Shrek that proves rather apt. (Except, our handsome Scotsman is not, in fact, green.) However, his disposition improves as the story progresses and he gradually demonstrates that he has a sense of humor and a caring nature, in addition to being an absolute hunk.

In many ways, Aela is harder to pin down that Nairn. She is a complicated woman with a wide range of skills, from pilot to office assistant. She possesses a wicked wit, and our hero immediately falls prey to her biting mockery, deservedly so. But she is also capable of laughing at herself when the occasion suits. In many ways, Aela is a more developed character than Nairn, possessing even more oniony layers than the ogre-hero. Beneath her outward confident, she has uncertainties and doubts which make her endearing and likeable.

The hero and heroine share great charisma. They are funny and entertaining, and their interaction never grows stale or boring. The sex scenes are sensual with some really great foreplay lead in, but there are moments approaching consummation when I would have liked more detail. Narin's father, Ruarhid, is a great addition to the story and is very likeable as a supporting character.

At times, I wanted the plot to move faster. There is a suspense subplot, but it gets lost amidst more trivial concerns as the novel progresses, and could have been more fully developed to add an element of excitement to the story. "Take Me Now" is an enjoyable read for those who like contemporary romances with swift pacing and entertaining storytelling.

Buy from:
Crooked Cat bookstore 
Amazon paperback & Amazon ebook 
Barnes and Noble

Nancy can be found at: author page for all novels     Email
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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

I'm Too Frumpy For My Gym

I go to the gym three or four days a week because A) I want to stay fit, and B) the kid center provides Miss Bear and I with a much needed break from one another.

Most of the people at my gym are pretty normal, but then there's another group. Fashionistas who carry Coach purses onto the cardio floor, who wear coordinated athletic outfits by name brand designers. These ladies look like they showered, applied makeup, arranged their perfectly coifed hair before their workout.

As a rule, I prefer to mind my own business. I use the elliptical machine. I wear headphones. I obey the rules of exercise equipment and elevators--don't look left or right. Stare straight ahead. Don't look at or speak to your neighbor.

Imagine my astonishment when a hand tapped my elbow. Startled, I glanced over at the occupant of the other elliptical machine, a young Asian lady who appeared to be one of the aforementioned Fashion Fitness Warriors. She spoke to me, so I removed my head phones.

"Your hair is very frizzy," she said. "I am a hair stylist. I just wanted to let you know that your hair stylist can provide you with a conditioning treatment that will make your hair very smooth."

"Um, thanks," I said. Then, for unknown reasons, I felt compelled to explain. "I don't shower before I work out, so I wake up and put my very frizzy hair into a ponytail."

"Your hair stylist can help you," she said with the serious air of an oncologist referring a cancer patient to chemo.

Right. I don't have a hair stylist. I refrained from telling her that the only time I've even had my hair trimmed in the last four years was the prior November, and only then for my sister's wedding.

"You have very pretty hair. Pretty color," she said. I think at this point she felt compelled to do some damage control for my poor ego. "Is your color natural?"

"I have children," I said, which is really the same as saying, Duh. My natural color is gray.

"Call your hair stylist right away," she said.  "She can help with the frizz."

"Uh, thanks?"

With a bright smile of encouragement, she concluded her workout and went on her merry way, content in the knowledge that she had done her best to save her fellow frumpy human being.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Author Spotlight: Nancy Jardine

Nancy, please tell us about yourself and your writing.

A ‘near empty nester’ I live in Aberdeenshire, a fantastically scenic part of Scotland, with my husband of 39 years. All around me are hundreds of castles and even older sites of historical interest.  Standing stones; Neolithic and Iron Age sites; Roman marching camps only name a few of those on offer – a ruined 14th century castle and a substantial Roman marching camp almost literally on my doorstep. All of that is great since I’ve always loved history!

The ‘almost empty nester’ part is because I child mind my 18 month old granddaughter at least two full days a week. On ‘granny days’ I don’t manage any writing but have great fun doing lots of exciting things. Grandma is most happy when she’s hanging onto the death slide in the park, or going down the chutes, making more noise than the child. A very active and bright little girl, a lot of stimuli are needed for her as she doesn’t sleep much during the day. I’m very privileged to do the child minding since I gave up my teaching career a bit early because of hearing problems. 

On writing days I write in a mixture of genres and my publishing history reflects this. To date I’ve had published two non-fiction historical projects: a pack of teaching materials regarding local railway history; and a history of my local primary school which dates back to the early 1500s. (Both done while teaching at the local primary school) Since giving up teaching in the autumn of 2011 I’ve had 4 full-length novels published. 

Take Me Now is an entertaining, light hearted, sensual, corporate sabotage mystery which I had great fun writing. Monogamy Twist is a sensual ancestral mystery – both published by The Wild Rose Press.

Topaz Eyes is my second ancestral mystery but is a ‘sweet’ romance-published by Crooked Cat Publishing.

My multi 5* reviewed, historical, adventure romance (Goodreads and Amazon), The Beltane Choice, is set in Celtic/ Roman Britain AD 71 – also published by Crooked Cat Publishing. (The Beltane Choice stemmed from my love of teaching Celtic/Roman history to my primary classes.)

For early teens I’ve also written a full-length time-travel historical adventure which goes back to Roman times in the Aberdeenshire of AD 210-  Dabbling With Time - though it’s, as yet, unpublished.

I’ve two current works at first draft stages.  One is a sequel to my historical novel (The Beltane Choice). This is presently sitting at approx. 80,000 words, and I hope to complete this first draft by the end of March 2013. However, since I’m more ‘pantser’ than ‘plotter’ with this work I’m not certain of the end date!

My second work in progress is a family saga starting in the 1850s, going through to the 1950s. My saga is due to my love of ancestry- an intermittent hobby when I make time for it. I’ve done a fair amount of research into my own family background and saw great possibilities for a fictional story, yet, though influenced by my background, it’s a work of fiction. This is sitting at around 14, 000 words but has a very detailed plan to work to!

I run a fairly active blog, which takes up a lot of that ‘marketing time’ we authors tend to spend, though much of my blog posts are author interviews and promotion of other authors. As well as regularly guesting on other blogs, I also write twice a month for a blog called ‘Writing Wranglers and Warriors’ which aims to post every single day.  

What inspired your current book?
If by current book, you mean the one most recently published, then that’s Topaz Eyes which was launched in December 2012, published by Crooked Cat Publishing.

To explain the inspiration for it I need to go back to my first published novel-Monogamy Twist- published by The Wild Rose Press. Monogamy Twist is a contemporary version of a weird Dickensian bequest of a dilapidated English estate, the unknown benefactress only uncovered through delving into ancestral trees. The idea for this came from watching a current BBC version of a Charles Dickens novel (Great Expectations) while also doing my first Ancestry researching of my own family background. For the Monogamy Twist mystery I had to create a family tree. That one was fairly simple, but I enjoyed creating it so much I wanted to design another one that was a lot more complex, with some really hidden surprises.

Topaz Eyes evolved. In Topaz Eyes I wanted a deeper mystery, so I created a family tree to third and fourth generation levels. I then had to think of something to bring together lots of third cousins who didn’t know each other. The mystery centers on a treasure hunt for a fantastic collection of original Mughal owned jewels which was scattered amongst family members back in 1910. The next question I had to address was where did these cousins live?

Most of my novels have some sort of Scottish/British connection, or include fabulous locations I’ve been fortunate to visit. In my second Wild Rose Press novel (Take Me Now), based on a Scottish Island castle, I included trips to London, Paris, Barcelona, Tallinn, Oman and the Caribbean (with a hint of New York). Yes- it is a zipping around the world kind of novel!

For Topaz Eyes I wanted to include lots of European places and some in the US.  So, Topaz Eyes begins in the wonderful German city of Heidelberg, and then the hunt (fraught with danger and even death) moves on to Duluth and Rochester (Minnesota), New York, Vienna, Amsterdam and Edinburgh. All wonderful cities to read about or visit!

My hero -Teun Zeger - in Topaz Eyes is a Californian (born in Rochester, Minnesota) and the heroine - Keira Drummond - is a lass from Edinburgh, Scotland. They find themselves thrown together to solve the ultimate mystery in Topaz Eyes which is even more valuable that the scattered Mughal jewels.

Again, I totally loved creating reasons for them being connected and had tremendous fun working out the interweaving plot of the whereabouts of the jewels, and working out what the ultimate precious ‘twist’ was. 

A reader (a TWRP author) who gave Topaz Eyes a  great review says: “If you enjoy treasure hunts, you'll love Topaz Eyes…. The romance between Teun and Keira develops against a backdrop of forgotten wealth, family distrust, and danger. A fun, engaging read that will have you calling your travel agent.” 


A peculiar invitation to Heidelberg embroils Keira Drummond in the search for a mysterious collection of extraordinary jewels once owned by a Mughal Emperor; a hoard that was last known to be in the possession of Amsterdam resident, Geertje Hoogeveen, in 1910. 

Who among the progeny of Geertje – hitherto unfamiliar third cousins brought together for the quest – can Keira rely on? Distrust and suspicion among them is rife. 

Which one is greedy, and determined enough, to hire thugs to tail her… and worse… as she travels to Vienna and Minnesota?  Can Keira even trust Teun Zeger - a Californian she is becoming very drawn to – as they pair up to unearth the jewellery? 

As they follow a trail of clues, will they uncover the full collection before the hired gun kills them? Details remain furtive and undisclosed until danger and death forces their exposure. And who harbours the ultimate mystery item that is even more precious than the Mughal jewels? 
Greed, suspicion and murder are balanced by growing family loyalty, trust, and love. 

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Nancy can be found at: author page for all novels     Email
Blog     Website     Facebook     Twitter      About Me      Linkedin

Monday, March 25, 2013

The Quickie

The funniest thing about men is how excited the male animal gets about sex. Now, if you want to see something amusing, wait until a lazy weekend afternoon and ease up beside your spouse. Lean in close and whisper into his ear: 

"I've been writing sex scenes for the last hour. Want to sneak upstairs for a quickie?"

My husband lights up like a Christmas tree. His legs form a whir and he's gone before the dust settles. I haven't seen him move so fast since the last time Miss Bear tried to bolt into traffic. (Although, granted, this is a common enough occurrence.)

I suspect that quickie sex is the favorite sex of married men. It requires the least work on his part, and he can be done in two-to-three minutes and claim: "We were supposed to be quick. I was just doing my part."

Now, if you intend to join him, then get upstairs quick. Ignore unfolded laundry, dirty dishes and the overflowing trash. If you delay too long, you may discover he's finished without you.

Mr. Snark takes off his clothing so fast, he doesn't even notice there are no sheets on the bed because it is laundry day. Completely naked, he puts his hands on his hips and scowls. "We have to go get sheets and make the bed," he says.

"No time. Just throw a blanket across the mattress. First rule of quickie sex: don't talk about quickie sex. Just do it. Second rule of quickie sex, don't delay or the napping baby will awaken and it'll all be over before it begins."

Of course, this makes for a great April Fool's Day joke too.  Just be sure you have a good excuse handy for why you didn't make it upstairs. "I'm sorry, dear. I got distracted by <<insert chore he hasn't performed>> and I forgot you were up here. Of course, I'm not in the mood anymore but we can have sex if you'd like to spend an hour on foreplay."


Friday, March 22, 2013

Rules of Engagement

People climb into vehicles together and subject themselves to grueling hours of close association for the purpose of visiting far off locations.  It's called family vacation.

There's a special sort of insanity that comes from being trapped in a moving vehicle with your own children for any period of time over an hour. The degree of lunacy generated is directly proportional to how many kids you've got, how closely they have to sit to one another and how far you've got to travel.

Climbing into the minivan, Mrs. Snark glances back and observes all THREE children together in the backseat. "WHOA! Hold up!" she shouts. "Why are they all sitting together?  Why are they TOUCHING one another?"

She swings to Mr. Snark. "Are you insane?"

"You said they should be touching," Mr. Snark says.

Mrs. Snark looks at her husband like he's grown two heads. "I said they should NOT be touching. One of them should be in the third row seat. I'll sit in the second row seat with the baby, and we can put the teenager in the front passenger seat. That way no child can touch another child on purpose or by accident."

"The back is already packed," Mr. Snark grumbles. "The third row seats are collapsed."

"Then unpack it," Mrs. Snark snaps. "Only fools travel with children that can touch each other. I don't need that kind of grief."

Grumbling, Mr. Snark heads to the back to unpack and repack the car.

The trip proceeds without incident until hours and miles later, the Snarks stop for lunch at a restaurant that offers a large booth. Happenstance places the boys beside each other. 

They immediately launch into an Abbott and Costello skit...

"Scoot over." One pokes the other.
"Ow." The other elbows his brother.
 "You suck!"
"You suck more."
"Don't call me cookie!"

From the other side of the booth, Mr. Snark roars in aggravation. "Shut up! Both of you! If either of you touches the other again, I'm going to ground both of you from all of your stuff! Forever."

Silence falls.

A pin drops.

Then one says, "Scoot over. I don't want you to accidentally touch me so I lose all of my stuff."

Thursday, March 21, 2013


I'm so mad at my husband, I bought myself flowers.

Book Review: Fender Bender Blues by Niecey Roy

"Classic cars, garden gnomes, and steamy romance? My kind of book!"
~Bestselling Author Kate Perry

Her life took a wrong turn. He's driven by success. They didn't count on crashing into love...


Rachel Bennett loved her job until the day she finds herself doubting her choices.  Now she's hunting for a new career, but starting over isn't easy.  Her plan is simple—no distractions until she finds her dream job.  She didn't plan on fate throwing her a curveball in the form of a fender bender with a sexy guy in an expensive suit.

Craig Larsen is a wealthy, successful business owner with a plan of his own: survive his current PR nightmare and stay away from his overly determined ex-girlfriend.  His need for control and personal success is turned upside down when he meets Rach, a sassy redhead who can't drive.

Soon they find themselves battling with Rach's grumpy old neighbor, toilet-papering the trees of a high school nemesis, and fighting over the last slice of pizza.  Can two very different people plus one fender bender equal a chance at forever?


"Fender Bender Blues" isn't exactly what I expected from a lighthearted romantic comedy. The characterization of both the hero and heroine delved deeper than the typical tale within the genre, bringing a surprising amount of angst to the table. Niecey Roy does an exceptional job of balancing both hilarity and the complexities of a genuine romantic relationship.

Rachel Bennett is a social worker on leave of absence due to a personal crisis that leaves her questioning her own judgment. She bounces from one menial job to another, and drags our hero along on a variety of side-splitting adventures, including waging yard wars with her grumpy neighbor.

Craig Larsen is a workaholic, a serious businessman who has lost touch with the human race and his sense of fun. Fortunately for him, Rachel helps him find it again. The sassy redhead turns his world upside down. Hero and heroine fight their way into love--often with absolutely hilarious results.

The story begins with her backing her vehicle from her driveway while applying lip gloss--a bad combination anyway you look at it. She is lucky enough to collide with the gorgeous Craig Larsen, and collide she does, in so many more ways than just the auto accident.

Now, reactions on Amazon reviews are heated and varied. Niecey Roy has really struck a chord with a lot of people. Reviewers seem to love Rachel or hate her. No in-between. As a former auto liability adjuster for a major insurance company, I can totally sympathize with the portion of the audience who would like to see her driver's license suspended. Negligent driving, especially when the at fault party blames the other driver, is a pet peeve of mine.

That said--Rachel has many great qualities. She is smart, adventuresome, and has a wicked sense of humor. Without her, Craig would be a stick in the mud, no doubt, stuck for eternity in his office behind a computer screen and a pile of paperwork. He needs her to pull him out of his funk.

Both of Niecey's characters are remarkably human, complex and complicated, with merits and flaws, capable of making wise and poor decisions. Yes, Rachel can be immature, but she also possesses an almost painful empathy for the children she helped professionally. There are specific moments within the story when Craig demonstrates an abominable lack of judgment, especially with regard to his psycho ex-girlfriend. There are moments when the reader is convinced that the man is one step away from finding a dead bunny on his stovetop. Yet he is too dense to see it.

"Fender Bender Blues" made me laugh so hard I couldn't keep my eyes open to read. The story has a fast-paced plot and the language is easy to follow, making for a quick read. The sex scenes are spicy, not too detailed, but well done. The characters have a great deal of depth and facets of personality, and together share definite charisma. With witty dialogue and unexpected plot twists, the reader is never left feeling bored. Definitely, a great read.

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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Packing Hell

Family vacations have an iconic place within American culture. Chevy Chase's National Lampoon movies poked fun at them, and yet millions of photo albums are packed with pictures immortalizing the adventures of people from all walks of life.

For the Snarks, a weekend away starts with one spouse making lists. To Do in order to be ready to leave. To Bring so the trip proceeds smoothly. To Notify of the pending absence. 

Preparations are made in order for preparations to become possible. For a two day absence, Mrs. Snark obsesses over minutiae and details for a solid week in advance. She makes special trips to the store to purchase last minute items and loses hours of sleep due to emergency planning.

The other Snark spouse does NOTHING. 

Mr. Snark walks past a pile of food concentrated on the kitchen counter and stops to stare. "You know, they have stores where we're going," he says.

"Yes, but it costs a fortune to purchase every single spice I might need," Mrs. Snark says. "And besides, the kids will need snacks in the car."

"It's only four hours," Mr. Snark counters. "And we stop for lunch halfway."

"Get out of my kitchen or I'll give you something to do!" Mrs. Snark says, shooing the pesky man from the room.

Days advance and Mrs. Snark continues to make busy with her preparations. About two days before the trip is due to be undertaken, she says to Mr. Snark. "Shouldn't you pack?"

Like a turtle, Mr. Snark makes slow reply. "I will. Eventually."

One day before the trip, Mrs. Snark says, "When are you going to pack?"

"Soon," Mr. Snark says. "Don't worry."

Twelve hours.  "PACK DAMMIT!"

((yawning))  "I'll do it in the morning."


"I'm doing that now."

A half hour past the designated departure time, the Snark minivan rolls out of the driveway. "We're late because of you," Mrs. Snark declares bitterly.

All of her careful preparations--for naught. Her schedule--in shambles.

"It's not my fault that you pack everything but the kitchen sink for a weekend away," Mr. Snark snaps, and the van rolls merrily onward.