The random—and not so random—musings of a quirky Regency romance writer.
No one with that many people in her head can possibly be normal...

Monday, August 31, 2009

Corvettes, Corvettes and More Corvettes

Yet another post that has nothing to do with writing, reading, or Regency England. This one would fall under the "random musing" part of this blog.

This year's Corvette Show in Mackinaw City, MI was a bit disappointing. It was cold, windy, and rainy, three things that really take the fun out of walking around outside. I did take some pics, though, and had some fun. The bridge crossing was great and I even got some videos of the 'vettes coming over.

First, here are the 'vettes we took. No, we didn't actually enter the show. We just go to look and take part in the bridge crossing. The yellow '74 Stingray belongs to our friend Jack. Next is my dad's red '80 and our black '79. My brother wasn't able to make it this year with his brown '74 Stingray; his wife is VERY pregnant. In this pic, we are parked at a rest stop off of I-75, where we stopped for lunch on our way to our motel on Friday. We parked in the truck lot, lining our 'vettes in one parking spot.

The motel we stay in every year practically deserves a post all its own. We stay at the Dune Shores Resort, located in the Michigan's Upper Peninsula. It is owned by a lovely Hungarian couple who make the best breakfasts and pasties known to man. (I am very biased, I know.) They have cabins that can be rented by the month and ordinary motel rooms if you only want a night or two. Actually, the cabins can be rented night by night, too. We usually get ordinary rooms, some of which feature kitchenettes.

Above is what typically happens right after we arrive. The 'vettes must be looked over for any odd sounds or smells. Older corvettes are a lot of work and constant babying. You have to really love them to put up with them.

Across the highway from the motel is gorgeous Lake Michigan. It was too cold to swim this year--a definite bummer. My husband, ever the rebel, went for a swim anyway. It was 64 degrees Fahrenheit outside and 69 in the water. Way too cold for me. He said it was refreshing.

The pic to the left was taken from the motel parking lot, across the sandy front yard and highway to the water beyond.

In the pic to the right, if you look close, you'll see rain in the distance. It nailed us about twenty minutes later. My dad pointed it out to us. I blame him for its eventual arrival.

If it hadn't been so cold and windy, and eventually rainy, it would have been the perfect spot for writing. What could be more conducive to fueling creativity than a scene of such peaceful glory?

Enough of that. That was Friday. Now for Saturday. The Corvette Show...

Left: We crossed the bridge early Saturday afternoon on our way back to the lower peninsula to attend the show. It was raining in a dreary, dismal way. Depressing.

The red 'vette in the picture to the left is my mom and dad. We tend to follow them a lot on trips like this.

Our destination was just on the other side in Mackinaw City, which is literally at the foot of the Mackinac Bridge.

I do not know the actual number of cars that competed. I know there were not as many as last year. And last year only boasted about half the number of the year before. The recession takes its toll yet again...

Above and below are some pics of the cars that competed. We did not. None of our cars are quite up to snuff for a competition like this. :o)

The dark blue '78 above was probably my favorite. The only thing I didn't like about it was the extra wing. Otherwise, what a beautiful car.

It was so cold and so windy that I snapped pics as we walked to the store in whose parking lot the competition was held.

Personally, I'm partial to the C3 body style, the one GM used from 1971-82. The closest white car above (second from the right) is a C3 while the other white one is a C4, post '83. (Incidentally, GM only made one corvette in '83, the very first C4. It now resides in a museum, if what I'm told is true.) While the post '83 models offer more comfort than the C3s, I don't care much for the body style. It reminds me too much of the camaros that came out at the same time. Nothing against camaros but they aren't corvettes. :o)


And last but not least, here is a video of the corvettes coming off the Mackinac Bridge. I apologize for the weird spots on the video. It was still raining.

video

Friday, August 21, 2009

Romance and a String of Pearls; a Regency Giveaway

Pearls were a feature of the Season in Regency London. Debutantes wore them, matrons wore them; sometimes, they could be even be found in a gentleman's cravat. They were a sign of affluence and prosperity. They are mentioned in the Bible, portrayed in paintings by masters, and regarded as precious gems the world over.

What better way to celebrate pearls than by giving them away!

I have teamed up with my brother Jay, the owner/artist behind JAYSDESIGN Jewelry, with a new giveaway offer. We are giving away a signed copy of my Regency romance, Redemption, and a 16" string of genuine pearls. This isn't two separate giveaways. The winner will receive the book and a string of pearls. (This pearl necklace is made of cultured freshwater pearls. In Regency England, the pearls would have been natural pearls, most likely freshwater that were mistakenly thought to be saltwater. The culturing process was not developed until the early 1900s. The vast majority of pearls available on the market now are cultured.)

How can you enter to win this marvelous prize?

First, the rules:
  1. All participants must be 18 or older. If you are under 18, please get a parent to enter for you. Some have said my books are suitable for teens but that is a decision I leave up to each and every parent.
  2. You must have a US mailing address. If you live outside the US but have a family member with a US mailing address who can hold your prize for you or is willing to ship it themselves, feel free to enter. Otherwise, USA only.
  3. Entry deadline is August 31st at Midnight EST. The winner will be announced September 1st on this blog. Since I am not requiring an email for this contest it is up to all the entrants to check back September 1st to see who won. The winner must then contact me at jaimeygrant(at)yahoo(dot)com with their mailing address. If I don't hear from the winner by September 7th, a new name will be drawn.
  4. Relatives of me (Jaimey Grant aka Laura Miller) or Jay Lyons are not eligible to win. Sorry.

Here's how to enter:
  1. Become a follower of this blog, Into the Mind of Jaimey Grant. This can be accomplished through Google Friend Connect or Facebook's Networked Blogs. If you follow through both avenues, that's two entries. (There are follow buttons located at the top of the page and lower down on the sidebar.)
  2. Become a follower of Jay's blog, JAYSDESIGN Jewelry. This can be accomplished through Google Friend Connect or Facebook's Networked Blogs. If you follow through both avenues, that's two entries. (Both follow buttons are located in the sidebar. Scroll down until you see them.)
  3. Become a follower of my book reviews blog, Romance, Old School. This can be accomplished through Google Friend Connect or Facebook's Networked Blogs. If you follow through both avenues, that's two entries. (Both follow buttons are located in the sidebar. Scroll down until you see them.)
  4. Visit my facebook fan page and click the little "become a fan" button. That's an entry.
  5. Visit Jay's facebook fan page and click the little "become a fan" button. That's an entry.
  6. Follow me on twitter. That's an entry. If you tweet about the contest (or retweet my tweet), you will get another entry.
  7. Leave a comment on this post indicating which of the above you have done. Be sure that your post is somehow different from everyone else's. More than one "plain Jane" can lead to some confusion. For each of the above things you've done, you get an entry. That's a grand total of 10 ways to enter. If you enter in all 10 ways, you get an automatic 11th entry.
  8. If you are already a follower or fan, simply leave your comment indicating which ones you are. I do not automatically enter any followers or fans.
Pretty easy. No questions to answer, forms to fill out or blood oaths to make. Thanx for entering and have a lovely day!!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Oh, the Artists in My Family

As each day passes, I realize more and more how many "artists" there are in my family.

My oldest brother, Jeff, is quite the whiz with graphic design. He makes vinyl stickers and often must design or draw the requested logo before he can crank out a sticker. Curious? Here's his site: Lyons Design

Jeff teamed up with our cousin Chris and built a monster mud truck. Yup, that's right. A monster mud truck. Some of you may have read an earlier post I did about a mud bog I attended. Well, I missed Mudzilla's performance that day. Poor baby was broke by the time I arrived. :o(

How is this art, you ask? Why is any "art" considered art? It makes someone, somewhere feel something when they see, read, or otherwise experience it. Mudzilla is art.


Mudzilla is a 1977 Chevrolet C-65 monster truck. It has 2 1/2 ton GMC axles, along with a matching transfer case. The axles have 6.17:1 gears, and the transfer case has 2:1 low range. The motor is a 454 Chevy bigblock, with a TH400 transmission. The tires are 48" tall 19.5x24 V treads.

(Yeah, I have no idea what most of that means. I'm just here to look pretty.)

My younger brother paints, draws, and designs some fabulous jewelry. (Do I sound biased?)

I have a WIP (work-in-progress) that revolves around the prison hulks (decommissioned ships used to house convicts) of 18th and 19th century England. I asked him to draw a hulk for me and gave him some books on the subject. To the right is the result. I darkened it a bit in my Paint Shop program to give it more of a sinister aspect but otherwise, it's exactly as he drew it. He said it took him about 6 hours to do. I will be using it for the cover of my book when the time comes.

His latest thing is hand-knotted pearls such as the ones pictured to the left. Very time consuming. He also likes Swarovski (tm) Crystal and sterling silver. I help him with his blog and Facebook pages since he views computers as a necessary evil. Soon, we will be opening his Etsy.com storefront.

He and I will also be putting together a giveaway involving Regency romance and pearls. We think they would complement each other nicely, don't you?

Then there is my lovely niece Beth who is a spectacular artist. I have nothing of hers at the moment but she will be doing the art for my book covers, probably starting with Angel, the novel due to come out after Deception.

I met up with her a few weeks ago to see her portfolio for the very first time. I was skeptical, I admit. It was my mother-in-law, Beth's grandmother, who said she was a brilliant artist. Now, I'm all for art and encouraging kids in their passion for it. Allowing one who is promising but still quite amateur to do the art for my books is another matter entirely. It is the cover, after all, that is the first thing the potential buyer sees. (Makes me sound a little mercenary, doesn't it?)

Imagine my delight when I discovered exactly how talented she is! Flipping through her sketches, mostly fashion sketches, I came across one that startled me. It was unfinished, the woman in the picture not yet having a face, but I knew who she was. It was unsettling...

It was Verena, the heroine from my yet-to-be-released novel, Angel. There was something in her bearing that caused the recognition. The hair was exactly right, too. The style of dress and style of hair were the perfect Regency styles and even the exact way Verena would appear.

I was astonished. Beth had never read Angel or anything I had written, in fact. When I told her who the sketch was, she smiled and said she drew the picture with my novels in mind. Even with her very limited knowledge of the time period, she managed to bring it to life for me. I am so pleased that she has agreed to draw my characters.

Did I mention she's only 16?

Monday, August 17, 2009

Updates of a Varied Sort

Well, there are a few matters to update here.

Announcements:
  • I have started a blog for Spellbound. All you readers who are interested, please follow to get all the inside dirt on the novel as updates are posted: All the Gossip of Spellbound.
  • The blog tour for Joyce DiPastena's new medieval romance Illuminations of the Heart is in full swing. Four prizes are being given away at the end of the tour and you can enter NOW. For details of the tour and rules for entry view the post on my book review site: Romance, Old School. Followers are always welcome and very much appreciated.
Updates:
  • My recent blog poll on publisher reviews has ended with 75% voting that this type of review is only of some importance and should be considered with a grain of salt. 25% think they are too biased to be considered at all. Nobody felt they should be treated as normal reviews. Although the voting is over, you can still leave your opinion on the original post: Do Publisher Reviews Matter?
  • Spellbound is still available for FREE download from Smashwords.com. Smashwords offers several file formats for many e-readers including Kindle, Palm, and Sony. They also offer PDF and HTML for ordinary computer reading. For details of my offer and the coupon code required for download, check out the original post: Spellbound is FREE Until August 21!
That is all for now. Happy reading, writing and blogging!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Spellbound is FREE Until August 21!

Until August 21, Spellbound can be downloaded for FREE from Smashwords.com. There are no catches, no hidden charges or requirements. All you do is enter coupon code FQ22T when required during the checkout process.

Smashwords offers many ebook formats for several ebook readers including the Kindle, Sony Reader and Stanza, as well as good old-fashioned PDF and HTML for online reading.

Book Blurb:

England 1820. Retired actress Raven agrees to pose as a missing noblewoman/fiancé of an eccentric duke. If caught, she could lose her life. Her reason is simple curiosity about her employer, Lord Windhaven. His plan goes far deeper than merely hiring an actress to play a role. He suspects something is not right with Raven. Then the duke's brother arrives, threatening to reveal Raven's identity.

Reviews from Goodreads:

From Joyce DiPastena: "Spellbound is filled with mysteries. Why does the Duke of Windhaven, who has hired Raven to pose, first as his fiancé and then as his wife, react with such terror when he sees Raven draw too close to the lake on his family estates? What is the truth about the missing noblewoman Raven is pretending to be, and what mysteries lie in Raven’s own past that have been hidden from her since childhood? And will the answers to these mysteries unite Raven and Windhaven together in love or tear them apart forever? Will the Raven I grew to love in Betrayal finally find her own happy ending?...I found the book difficult to put down, staying up later than I should have to read “just a few more words” in a new chapter, every time I finished an old one."

From Pamela Sinclair: "I really like how she fills in pieces of the characters past as the story progresses and the way the characters work to overcome their past mistakes."

From Rachel Rager: "Spellbound is an enchanting tale woven through and around two broken souls. Ms. Grant takes Raven, an actress, and leads her through a wonderful adventure full of love, forgiveness and acceptance. Together, the characters learned to work through their issues under unique circumstances.
I was particularly enthralled by the idea of the hero and heroine acting out a couple of Romeo and Juliet's duets! This definitely added a sense of romance unparalleled.
Once again Ms. Grant's style and description placed the reader right in the thick of the adventure. Such a page turner!"

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Don't Pet the Spider

Yes, we were told on our recent visit to the Raven Hill Discovery Center (in northern Michigan) that we could not "pet" the spider.

Here is our guide. She is a wonderful guide who owns this museum. I believe she has done a fabulous job.

And this is a close-up of the spider in her hand. Despite popular opinion, this is not a tarantula. We were told not to "pet" the spider since one of its defense mechanisms is to release its hair, causing itching and sneezing. She also said the first itching powder (a prank) was made from the hair of this type of spider.


So what else did the Animal Room have to offer?


There were tortoises. I have seen tortoises before. I have never seen four in the same room, one of which looked almost big enough to ride.

The four I'm referring to were all adopted by the kind owners of the Raven Hill Discovery Center. Apparently, this type of tortoise is one that can be purchased for a pet. (Why any parent would think this giant turtle would make a good pet is beyond me.)

We got there in time to help feed these fascinating animals. We were warned of the strength of their grip and to keep our fingers back. They don't know where the food stops and the human begins, after all.

Thankfully, they were perfect gentlemen (ladies?), however, and no fingers were lost. :o)


Of course, there were also some smaller turtles. I don't know what all of them are but here's the pics I took. Decide for yourself. :o)



The label on the tank said box turtles. There were five turtles in there, however, as you can see, and one of them looked a lot different than the others.




They had pythons, of course. I'm pretty sure this, to the left, is a python but there was a small boa constrictor in one of the tanks, too. I was getting them mixed up quite a bit...

Our guide informed us of the unsuitability of pythons as pets for children. (As if I needed someone to tell me that. LOL) She mentioned one family who thought one mouse per week was sufficient food for a python. That same python eats 3-4 RATS per week and even that isn't quite enough.

And this one to the right...sheesh, it's either a boa skeleton or a python skeleton. I'm leaning toward boa for some reason but I honestly can't remember which our guide told us it was. It was in a display case, just as if it were alive. Obviously, it is too delicate a specimen to be out for people to touch. I can only imagine children wanting to reach out to the thin bones only to have them snap off.

To the right here is a corn snake. I never realized how bright they were, pretty almost. (I never, never thought I would call a snake pretty...) There was an albino corn snake as well but, stupid me, I didn't take a picture. :o(


And the lizards. Oh, the lizards. They only had a few. (Turtles seemed to be their most numerous pets.)

To the left is a skink. Honestly, I don't remember much of anything she told us about skinks. My bad.

To the right is a leopard gecko. Notice the puffy tail. Apparently, geckos store food in their tails. I'm still marveling over that. Our guide took this neat little lizard out so we could pet him. That was pretty cool. :o)




The walls of this room were covered in animal skins and skeletons, butterfly displays and more. It was a fascinating room.



For more information, driving directions and classes, visit the center's site: Raven Hill Discovery Center.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Ever Hear of a Music Garden?

You read that correctly. I said a music garden. We discovered one on our recent trip up north. First, the reason we even went that direction...


Saturday, my family went on a little mini "Corvette Trip" as we call it. (Every year we take a "Corvette Trip" to the Upper Peninsula here in Michigan for the Corvette Show and parade across the Mackinac Bridge. See our Vettes above, belonging my brother, my dad and myself.) My sister-in-law, who is like 1000 months pregnant, won't be able to go on our usual overnight trip this year so we took a mini trip. Rain prevented us from going to Ludington as we had planned so we ended up in Boyne Falls instead.

Near there, we found the Raven Hill Discovery Center. This place is featured on 9&10 News a couple times a year for their really interesting hands-on displays.

They have some of the neatest displays I have ever seen. There is a "Periodic Room" with a Periodic Table of Elements that covers nearly an entire wall. There is an "Animal Room" where they house the animals they generously take in from people who would abandon them. No surprise, these animals are mostly reptiles and one spider.

While there are many, many other displays all worthy of mention, the display I want to focus on here is the "Music Garden."

The Music Garden is an outdoor exhibit that features several instruments. These are all playable and most are even in tune. If you know how to play, you can.

(In the back of the picture you can see the Solar House. This is an exhibit that is still being worked on. Eventually, the entire house will use solar and wind power to operate as a normal home...but that is for another post.)



Many of these I can't remember if our guide even told us a name. I know this one, to the right, makes sound when someone slides their fingers down the aluminum pipes. They have to have resin on their fingers and grip fairly hard. The sound is rather piercing.



To the left are what look a little like bells. In essence, that's what they are. When struck with the rubber mallet, they make a very similar sound. They are made from old acetylene tanks, cut down. Our guide told us that one of these tanks actually had a Nazi swastika on it.




To the right is an instrument made of PVC tubes, cut at different lengths and set in a frame. Tucked between the tubes are four flip-flops. A deep, hollow sound is produced when a flip-flop is struck against the open holes visible in front.



There is an amazing lithophone, too. It is pictured here, left. Looks like any ole xylophone, doesn't it? The difference? This instrument is stone instead of wood, hence LITHOphone instead of XYLOphone.

This is another percussion instrument on the right. When struck with two rubber mallets, the droning sound reverberated through the ground. I even have a video of this in action below. The two women playing it are not musicians, just having fun. :o)


video

For contact info, available activities and directions, you can visit their site at www.ravenhilldiscoverycenter.org.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Winner of the Jaimey Grant Drawing at JDP News

Joyce drew a name from her little hat yesterday, declaring Cindi Hoppes of Illinois the fortunate winner of an autographed copy of one of my Regency romance novels. Cindi gets her choice of Betrayal, Spellbound, Heartless or Redemption, or my yet-to-be-released Regency, Deception.

Congratulations, Cindi!!

Thank you to everyone who participated and those who became followers of my blog. I really appreciated all the lovely comments on Joyce's post, too. And thank you to Joyce for hosting the event. :o)

Happy reading, writing and blogging, everyone!!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Do Publisher Reviews Matter?

So you're published. And you didn't have to self-publish, you found a traditional, if small, publisher. Your book shows up on Amazon and in the little review section, eventually, appears your very first review...from your publisher.

You are excited to have the praise you deserve. But what do the readers think? Do they put any credence in a review written by the person(s) who published the book? Or is the review largely ignored because of the assumption that the publisher loves the book or they wouldn't have published it in the first place?

After my last poll revealed that reviews, for the most part, are at least moderately important to a reader when considering a purchase, I thought to go a little deeper than that and ask about some specific reviews. That is the subject of my next blog poll.

Publisher Reviews: Do They Matter?

Again, to the right you will see the little poll box. Select your answer. Do you always trust publisher reviews? Or do you read them with a grain of salt, simply scanning for additional information about the book? Do you ignore them completely, assuming the publisher would be too biased in the author's favor to offer any helpful information?

If you have a reason for your vote that you would like to share, by all means do so. Comments are always welcome.

Thanx for visiting. As always, happy reading, writing, and blogging!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Curiosity Continued...

Update on my Amazon test as mentioned in the post Curiosity Forces Me to Try Something Different:

I don't think that bold little Amazon sale price really has a whole lot to do with Amazon Kindle book sales. Not for me, anyway. Of course, it is difficult to accurately test this theory when one is left two negative reviews. Sometimes, overly nasty negative reviews can make readers curious. Hmm. Now that those plagiarized reviews have been removed--Thank you, Amazon!--we may get a more accurate test.

Oh, July's sales were higher than June's but nowhere near March's. (I'm not revealing actual numbers quite yet.) :o)

On another, related matter:

I realize e-books are really only just starting to gain momentum as a preferred reading format. I participated in the recent sale at smashwords.com, offering 50% off my Regency novels. Well, I've decided to go one step further since that sale ended. I lowered the price to $2.95. (Old price was $4.95.) No coupon codes necessary.

For those of you unfamiliar with smashwords: The books offered on smashwords are available in several formats including Kindle and PDF. Each book can be previewed, too. For absolutely no cost to you, you may read the first 50% of each of my books for free.

Happy reading, writing, and blogging!

England 1816. Bri has been running for years. Just when she thinks she may have escaped those pursuing her, she finds herself thrown into Newgate Prison...where Adam finds her. Hired by Bri's family, he is determined to return the heiress posthaste. When it becomes clear that her family does NOT have her best interests at heart, she must accept Adam's help, something her pride will not allow.


England 1820. Retired actress Raven agrees to pose as a missing noblewoman/fiancé of an eccentric duke. If caught, she could lose her life. Her reason is simple curiosity about her employer, Lord Windhaven. His plan goes far deeper than merely hiring an actress to play a role. He suspects something is not right with Raven. Then the duke's brother arrives, threatening to reveal Raven's identity.


England 1820. The Duke of Derringer must marry within five days. Disgusted with his father for such a stupid codicil, he vows to marry the first woman he meets. That woman is Leandra Harcourt, illegitimate daughter of the late Earl of Harwood. Derringer marries her, refusing to admit he's helping her more than himself. Meanwhile, some disobliging soul wants him dead.


1821. Lady Jenny is the pampered, beloved daughter of a duke. Becoming a little jaded after several Seasons, Jenny flirts shamelessly with the newest rogue to grace London, Dare Prestwich. The situation gets out of hand, Dare flees, and Jenny must face judgmental Society alone. The one left to pick up the pieces is Dare's twin, Miles, who is in love with Jenny's twin, Gwen. Oh, the scandal.

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