Tag Archives: E-reader Test Drive

Friday Fast Five: A Gazillion Giveaways, New Orleans or Ireland?, Slumdog Zumba,Did You Know it’s e-reader week, and OMG Greek Yogurt

Friday Fast Five: A Gazillion Giveaways, New Orleans or Ireland?, Slumdog Zumba,Did You Know it’s e-reader week, and OMG Greek Yogurt

1. It’s Friday! So that means Giveaways Ahoy! Here are my favorites this week:

– Kim of TomKat Studios is celebrating reaching 20,000 FaceBook fans with an incredible Giveaway: a personalized customized party package! I asked Miss A what theme she’d like if she could hire someone to create it for her – she said Rainbow Magic Fairies. (So, I know what I’ll be making if I don’t win).

Bird’s Party found a really cool website that puts together packages of sample items from all sorts of crafty companies selling lovely hand-made items. Called My Dream Sample Box, I think it is a genius idea and a great way to help small companies spread the word about their products! I think I’m going to have to order one of the kid’s boxes…how cool for Miss A and Lil’ G to open up a package of stuff just for them? Today, Bird’s Party is giving away 2 prize packages from MDSB full of the best offerings from their sponsors.

2: Earlier this week I mentioned author Erica O’Rourke, and guess what? She’s hosting an awesome giveaway of her own right now. For a chance to win a whole bunch of lovely gifts, visit her website and simply tell her whether you’d prefer to spend Mardi Gras in New Orleans or St. Paddy’s Day in Ireland (I decided I would prefer Mardi Gras in Temple Bar, how’s that?) Contest closes on St. Patrick’s Day – if you comment, let her know I sent you over! :)

3: Recently I mentioned trying Zumba for the first time, and I am so hooked. There are lots of fun songs and routines, but I think so far,  my favorite routine to do is to the song Jai Ho (made famous by movie Slumdog Millionaire). The husband and I watched this movie not long after he returned from a business trip to India, so it was especially interesting. The movie really is a must see, it’s not the most happy movie overall, but powerful, and I’d say the ending still qualifies as a good one.

4: Did you know it’s Read an e-book week?

I suppose that’s why editor turned author Nathan Bransford has had so many e-book related posts this week on his site. Oh, and speaking of giveaways, here’s a chance to win a nook or a kobo!


“Greek Yogurt? Oh my God, Greek Yogurt. Greek yogurt. Oh my God.” Regular yogurt really has never done it for me – and I had read of how wonderful Greek Yogurt was over and over in all kinds of magazines, but it just sounded, well, gross. Then I finally tried it and YUM! Low to no fat, high in protein, rich and creamy – it is awesome. I have it for breakfast almost every day, either mixed with a bit of granola or on top of oatmeal. I’m sticking to my under 300 calories for breakfast goal, and still feel totally full. If you’ve been hesitant to try it – go for it, it really is good! Greek Yogurt in all kinds of flavors from all kinds of brands seems to have exploded onto grocery store shelves, so everybody else must have figured out the same thing I did.

The Backstory on How I Came To “Meet” March’s Monday Muse (and how cool random networking can be)

The Backstory on How I Came To “Meet” March’s Monday Muse (and how cool random networking can be)

My “meeting” of tomorrow’s Monday Muse – the first and I certainly hope not last – of 2011, occurred on FaceBook. It all came about in a rather crazy way, and it just goes to show you how things can kind of just happen.

Flipping through my local newspaper one day last spring, I caught a blurb about the RWA Chicago North Spring Fling. As of yet I have not joined RWA (Romance Writers of America) but may do so in the near future (I go to my first “trial” meeting next week actually.) Anyways, I saw that Sarah Wendell (of SmartBitches fame) was to be a speaker at the  event. I love SB Sarah – she is made of awesome, as I learned while participating in an e-reader test drive she coordinated for Sony a few summers back. So I did the logical thing – I got in touch with her and we set up a little meet n’ greet while she was in town.

When I met up with Sarah in the hotel lobby she was mid-conversation with Carrie Lofty, who was there promoting her new book, Song of Seduction,  that was going to be part of the initial launching of Carina Press.  The three of us sat and chatted for a bit and traded mommy stories (We are all multi-tasking-mavens! Mamas who do it all! The whole reason for Monday Muse to exist! Enough with the exclamation points!). And later when I got home I looked up Carina Press and even liked them on FaceBook – why not, right? This is all part of my craft and the world I hope to be taking by storm very soon, so it never hurts to stay connected. (Also, Carrie will be speaking at the RWA National conference in New York this November, I won’t be able to go – but if you are, and you attend her workshop: The Pitch Witch, please be sure to tell me all about it!)

Just before Sarah and I headed out the door to grab some breakfast, Erica O’Rourke stopped us to let Sarah know how much she enjoyed her presentation. A bit of chatting and Erica and I realized we live in the same town (she is going to be the arm I cling to next Monday at my first RWA meeting). It’s crazy, because since our chance meeting that morning last spring, I run into her almost every week where I teach some of my theatre classes. Erica has had some wonderful success since we met nearly a year ago  – her novel, Unchosen, won the RWA Golden Heart award for best Young Adult manuscript and her book,  Torn, comes out through K teen/Kensington in July of this year.

Yes, I am hoping some of their good fortune rubs itself all over me.

So Sarah and I finally went off and had a lovely breakfast and a great talk – and I made her sign my copy of Bosoms.

Back to my original point (I did have one) – having “liked” Carina Press on FB I now get fun little tid bits, such as: when a book gets released, Carina will post some of the author’s favorite quotes  from her work.  They will also post the first line or two of the novel. While reading one of  the latter I nearly snorted with laughter, it was just so ridiculous. An English Lit major with a strong focus in Victorian era work, the sheer Gothicness of the quoted lines caught my attention and I couldn’t help but add a comment. The thing was, Carina also included a plot summary that I found intriguing, but feared the outrageous prose would prove too much for me. Well, imagine my surprise when the author herself  comments right back with a polite (I am paraphrasing here) “Um, just to let you know, the first lines in the book are actually not “my story” but lines from a novel the heroine is reading.”

OK, now I was hooked. So I bought the book, and then I looked up the author’s personal blog and liked what I found – and so again,  I did the logical thing – I asked the author if she wanted to friend me on FB (I was sure to tell her I wasn’t a lunatic). She must have believed me about the lunatic thing – because she did friend me, and it’s been fun to get a glimpse into her world and get a taste of her thoughts and ideas when I happen to catch them over at FB. “Talking” to her some more I find that we really have quite a bit in common, aside from the desire to write. We both have a strong background in theatre, and we both started our children out in homeschool and chose to continue their education in a non-public school environment.

The author I am referring to is Susanna Ives, and I can’t wait for you to meet her tomorrow when I introduce her to you as the Monday Muse for March.

The book that lured me in was Rakes and Radishes. Available from Carina Press. I will include a review of R&R tomorrow as well, because, as I’ve said before, I’m a multi-tasker.

And come to think of it, Sarah, Erica, and Carrie could all qualify as Monday Muses too – so don’t be surprised if you see them featured here at some point. I’m not one to waste resources.


Friday Fast Five

Friday Fast Five

I started building this week’s Friday Fast Five on Sunday, adding to it here and there throughout the week, so the post itself won’t seem quite so “fast,” but the act of me putting it up today is very fast indeed, I assure you :)

1. Having been a Smart Bitch test driver for a Sony e-reader last summer, I have found I really enjoy Miss Scarlett – my favorite feature, and one that other devices are not able to offer (from what I can tell) is the ability to borrow e-books from my library’s digital “Media Mall.” I have to say though, that the wi-fi only Kindle priced under $150 is very tempting. Kindle offers soooooooo many free e-books, and there are a lot of features the Kindle has that the Sony doesn’t – but I really, REALLY don’t need two e-readers. I wouldn’t mind an ipad though (an item I can never ever see myself buying, I have way too many other things for me to spend $500…or whatever they currently cost, it’s still too much…on). Which is why I’m entering the Family Circle sweepstakes to win a 16GB ipad (they are also giving away a few Wii’s) You can enter here – if you win, I expect a thank you. 😉

2. Vanilla Rooibus tea. I love it. It is dee-licious with not a thing added to it other than piping hot water. Starbucks carries it, and it’s great because I can get a drink that feels almost as indulgent as a cafe mocha but has several hundred less calories and is half the price.  It’s even cheaper when I brew it at home; World Market sells Republic of Tea, and yes it’s a little pricey, but I stock up when I have a $10 off purchase coupon (frugalness is a just a part of my blood I think). Next time I go on a tea shopping spree, I think I’ll have to try this one:

3. I want to buy Lil’ G some type of electonic-y device for Christmas…I’m debating between 3, er, 4.

4. Speaking of holiday shopping,  Black Friday is 3 weeks from today…do I give in to the insanity and go out shopping at 3am? Is there even anything I want to buy that badly? What do you usually do?

5. If you look in the upper right corner of the sidebar, you’ll see Miss A asking for your vote. Yes, election day was this past Tuesday – but Miss A needs your vote for a chance to go to Disney World! She’s entered the Balloon Time Put a Face on Fun contest. To vote for her, just click on that pic and then click vote! You don’t need to register for anything and can vote up to 5 times a day. If she wins we’ll bring you back something nice from the Magic Kingdom. The contest closes on my birthday…I’m going to take that as a piece of luck.

Monday Muse is back and sippin’ some MandaJuice!

Monday Muse is back and sippin’ some MandaJuice!

Well, if I’m going to keep my promise to blog everyday in May, there’s no better excuse than to bring Monday Muse back!

I can’t recall how I stumbled across blogger Amanda Del Buono’s website: MandaJuice – Blogging With the Safety Off, but I’m glad I did. Her writing style is open and honest and quirky and funny. She is very near – if not exactly –  my own age, has 2 young chilluns (her oldest and Miss A were born in the same year) and, above all else, she is also on the journey to publication. She’s a few steps ahead of me because her first book is finished…and wow, but do I love how she includes an open invitation for an agent to come check her awesomeness out. If that is not the definition of awesome, I don’t know what is. (I promise to stop using awesome now). Her unabashed “Hey you, I wrote this incredible book, now who is cool enough to be my agent?”  was enough to get me wanting to read Gravy, the title of her hopefully-eventually-published-novel (y’know, the one she actually finished while I am still about 30k away from the 90k finish line I’ve estimated). I really like her recent post on “Where the Magic Happens” it makes me want to tote my netbook around more often, just on the off chance I’ll finally manage to find an extra 30 seconds in my day.

Apart from the kinship of a childhood in the 1980’s, motherhood, a love for Trader Joe’s,  and writing – I find we have something else “in common.” Manda went through gastric-bypass surgery and is very open about the procedure and its impact on her life. My mother and brother have both had this surgery, and my sister and other brother are both in the planning stages to have it as well. Though weight is a constant struggle for me, it is a battle I have managed to control, for the most part, in that surgery is not an option I have had to consider – nor do I ever plan to let it become one. But I can, all too well, understand the ache:  physical, mental, and emotional, that obesity causes.

But that’s not holding either of us back! On a much lighter note (yes, pun intended)  I am happy to see her GoodReads shelf includes Laura Kinsale’s newest novel, which I have cued up (thanks to a rockin’ SB Sarah!) and ready to go on Miss Scarlett. Wow, this is one Monday Muse I’d love to sit and have coffee with…especially if it means I’d be doing it in Portland (I still really want to visit there, and the husband still really wants to live there).

But if you can’t get some java right now – in the Pacific Northwest or otherwise, click on over to MandaJuice and start sipping.

Though I can’t imagine being unable to obtain some kind of coffee-type beverage at a moment’s notice in the Pacific Northwest…or is that a stereotypical fallacy? I’d be happy to do the research necessary to find out.

The Art of Writing

The Art of Writing

No, this is not another post about NaNoWriMo…though I’m finding it an incredible way to practice my craft. As I mentioned over at fellow Test Driver Tami’s blog when she asked what people expected to get out of it:

I am a fly by the seat of my pants kind of writer – and this story is taking me in all kinds of places I wasn’t expecting. It’s exciting – and only happening because I am making an effort to write every day.

SO that’s it really – I want to teach myself some discipline – to get into the habit – to make it a priority – to have it be a part of my life like I know it should. And the freedom of NaNo – the wild crazy literary abandon that seems to come with this project, is incredibly inspiring and just plain good for the soul.
If I end up getting a book ready to submit at the end of this, it will be icing on my cake.

But, as I said this isn’t a post about Nano (or wasn’t supposed to be at least).

Over at my idol’s website (you know the one…PW herself) a longtime homeschool contributor OMSH (Oh My Stinking Heck) ran a wonderful post about the writing activities she has her first grader do. As soon as I saw it, I knew I had to try tbis with Miss A. I say “try” because Miss A can be extremely difficult when I ask her to just try something and see how it goes. She likes structure and order and a clear list of expectations (personally, I think so she can know exactly what to complain about). So I was worried how she would react when I handed her a blank page and told her to just go for it.

The activity is to draw a picture of anything your little heart desires, then write a few lines talking about the picture. I told Aishtyn I would not be checking her spelling, to just write the words as best she could and it could be like a mystery for me to solve if they weren’t “just right.”

I have to say, she did awesome! She was thrilled when I could actually read 99% of what she had written. I’d love to show you her first effort, but my scanner is still in limbo until the husband re-intalls everything (remember my terrible horrible no good very bad day?) As soon as it’s up and running, I’ll add it in. Or maybe I’ll just take a picture of it and add it that way.

The activity sheets are available for FREE at this very cool little site (where a variety of other cool writing pages are also available). I am adding this to my weekly homeschool repertoire: along with Fractions Friday, we will now have FreeWrite Friday. I look forward to all the wonderful glimpses into Miss A’s mind…and the improvement in her reading and writing too of course!

Thanks again to OMSH for such a great idea!

ETA: Here it is, Miss A’s first Friday FreeWrite

miss a  viper story

“This is me on the viper. My first time. What is it like? said me.”

(On the last day our local theme park was open, she was finally tall enough to ride some of the bigger rollercoasters, it was a great way to end the season!)

I met Diana Gabaldon and I did not squee…

I met Diana Gabaldon and I did not squee…

… or clutch her hand and ask her to come home with me, or faint, or completely embarrass myself in a myriad  of other ways…

Currently Diana is on a book tour promoting the recent release of the 7th (of at least 8, I think) novel in her Outlander series, Echo in The Bone. 4 years ago when A Breath of Snow and Ashes came out, I had to miss her visit because the high school show I was directing was in its final dress rehearsal and well, it’s sorta important for the director to be there for that. So when I saw she would be here again, I begged the husband to play superDad  while I made the hour+ drive to meet one of my literary idols.

It was a very nice evening – I met some wonderful women (when you’re in a room of people all as passionate about a book as you are, you make friends very quickly). Before Diana came out, a group of Scottish dancers  performed a variety of numbers.

scottish dancers

Sorry for the fuzzy pics, but I have a wimpy point-and-shoot, and didn’t want to use the flash, so I jacked up the ISO and hoped for the best.

I loved the more feminine costumes a few of them wore for some of the dances.

scottish dancer

My favorite was the Sword dance – soldiers would perform this dance before battle as a way to predict the outcome (touch a sword or knock it out of place, and things could go bad…talk about pressure!).

sword dance

Of course, all this Scottish dancing required some music,  and most of it was provided by this fine gentleman.

piper at gabaldon reading

Then came the part we were all waiting for, Diana herself! She was wonderfully warm and relaxed as she chatted with the audience, describing how she became a novelist and sharing various stories concerning the books and her characters.

diana talk

She also performed a reading from EITB, the passage she chose made for many giggles from the audience. If you read the book, the part she read involves Jamie and Claire, and a discussion they have involving grey hair and being squidgy.

diana reading excerpt

Then she asked for questions from the audience, and there were many of the usual: when will there be a movie (who knows), when is the graphic novel coming out (fall of next year, she thinks), etc. My question focused on whether she ever found herself working events from her own daily life into her novels and if so, could she provide an example? She said it doesn’t happen too often, but a few she could remember involving direct quotes both came from her husband: one about how bad he smelled and the other while teaching a youngster how to pee standing up. It was an entertaining answer.

While waiting my turn in line for the book signing, I do what I always do these days while waiting for something – I took out Miss Scarlett and began to read.

Did I mention I was in a room full of people who LOVED books? The questions started coming fast and furious…most of them starting with, “Is that a Kindle?” By the end of the night I had several people planning to buy one…one woman even texted her husband demanding he go out and buy it for her 20th anniversary present. As a test driver, I believe I have more than earned the discount I got on my Sony Reader.

Finally, the highlight of the night – I got to walk up to Diana and have 10 seconds with her.

mel and diana edit

She was very gracious, and smiled for pictures and signed books for the 200+ people in line.  Yet she still took a moment to talk to me and wish me all the best on my writing journey.

diana's autograph 2

Early in her talk, she mentioned she was 35 years old when she decided that if she wanted to write a book, she better get to it. That was so encouraging to me, to know that I can do this, I’m not too old or too late or too anything. I just need to start writing, and more importantly – to keep writing.

I signed up for NaNoWriMo this year, and if I get frustrated and feel like I just don’t have the time, I’ll remember those words…Keep Writing!

And I will.

And who knows what can happen then.

In Search of the Sony Reader: AKA “It’s Like a Kindle, but not.”

In Search of the Sony Reader: AKA “It’s Like a Kindle, but not.”

My time as a test driver of a Sony e-reader for the SmartBitches is nearly at an end. As an added bonus for having pimped out their bling to all our friends and family for the summer, Sony has offered to let us test drivers keep our Readers for a significantly reduced price…or if we prefer, we can get a 10% discount on a purchase of one of the newer models.

I love Miss Scarlett, as I told SBSarah – we have bonded on the treadmill, and in the grocery store line, and in the middle of  the night when I couldn’t sleep. I very well may decide to fork over the dough and keep Miss Scarlett forever; enjoying a HEA of walking and e-book reading into the sunset.

But I am human, after all, and when offered a choice, I want to explore my options. Which is why I have been trying to hunt down a Sony Pocket (the 300) to hold in my hand and play with for awhile. I want to know what I’m giving up – that kind of thing.

Someone on our test driver e-mail loop mentioned Staples had the models in store. So off I go to push the easy button…except when I get there it takes the dudes working there a bit of navel gazing to realize what the hell I’m talking about…finally lighting up as I compare the Sony to a Kindle,  they consult the computer to see if one is in the store (really? you roam these aisles all day…) eventually determining that no, these are not in the store and only on-line. But they print me out a bunch of propaganda on the Pocket and Touch, oh gee, thanks.

Next, I swing by Borders, where one of the Staples dudes swears they are on display. Sure enough, there is a big table covered in Reader boxes and a banner proudly announcing sale of the Pocket and Touch waves above…but the boxes are empty, and aside from various accessories such as carrying cases and adapters – there is nothing for me to fondle. “Ooops,” says the portly employee whom I corner a moment later…”there was a mix-up and we didn’t get the right parts.” Huh? I demand to know if this is going to be a problem at all Borders, or just my home-town one. Mr. Get a Clue seems to think it’ s only a problem here, so I plan to trek to  a few other Borders in a 30 minute radius this weekend.

In the meantime, I swung into my local Best Buy, the husband seemed to remember hearing they had Sony Readers on display there. So I roamed around the store, a walking advertisement for birth control with Lil’ G screaming holy hell in the shopping cart seat because she has decided this week she has better things to do then hang with her Mama, and Miss A jumping on and off the bottom of the cart and randomly touching expensive electronic devices – eventually an employee asks if he can help me find something. When I tell him what I’m looking for, he stares at me blankfaced…he then calls over another lackey, who also stares blankfaced before calling over a third dude. This guy at least acted like he knew what I was talking about, and quickly told me, “Uh…no, we don’t have those in the store.”  Strike 3 Sony – I mean what the hell?

First of all, most of the employees I talked to at STORES THAT SUPPOSEDLY CARRY YOUR PRODUCT didn’t have half a clue as to what I was talking about:

Me: I’m looking for a PRS…Personal Reading System….

Useless Store Tool: Huh?

Me: Like a a Kindle.

Useless Tool: Oooooooh.

What’s the deal Sony? Amazon, who only sells their product on-line, is widely more recognized than your stuff…clearly, you have dropped the marketing ball.

I love my PRS 505 Miss Scarlett – I do. I will more than likely cough up the dough to keep her. I may very well decide I like the Pocket better…but before I kiss $200 goodbye I would like to see what I am buying…but if I have to jump through this many hoops and go on a wild goose chase just to see an item I want to buy…wow, you REALLY need to sell me on it (assuming I ever actually see the product of which I seek).

Like I said, I’ll search out a few other area Borders this weekend, and maybe even see if a Sony Store exists somewhere near me…I’ll get my E-Reader HEA one way or the other…it just won’t be easy.

Double Yay for More Free Books!

Double Yay for More Free Books!

Thanks to a tip over at the SB’s, I learned of the offer from Mills&Boon (the equivalent to HQ across the pond).  You can download a selected book from several of their series; a total 10 free books! I like using the e-pub file for downloads, load it up to Adobe Digital Reader, then copy it to my Sony Reader Library when I’m ready to tote it around (our time is nearly at an end…I must ship Miss Scarlett back Sept 30th).

And speaking of HQ, I’m sure you are already aware of the similar promotion they have been offering all summer, but in case you haven’t heard about it, in honor of their 60th anniversary, they are offering 16 free e-books.

Now granted, many of the titles are beyond absurd (Pleasure,Pregnancy, and a Proposition anyone?), and I’m sure my gag reflex will kick in from time to time at the awfulness…but if I find just one new author that I like, it will have been worth it.

Besides, did I mention they are free?

It’s the Little Things in Life that Thrill Me

It’s the Little Things in Life that Thrill Me

Like getting to post a review on the Smart Bitches Who Love Trashy Books website.

I can’t imagine how tickled I’ll be if a novel (I eventually manage to finish and submit to a pub) gets published. My skirt will flip so high you’ll see London, France, and a remote town somewhere in Alaska.

So, if you’ll excuse me, I need to get off the internets and get back to that novel…either the one I’m writing or the one on the e-reader…or maybe a little of both.

Miss Scarlett is an Enabler

Miss Scarlett is an Enabler

So I’m sending my boy toy packing and stickin’ with my 2nd Sony e-reader of the summer: Miss Scarlett. Aside from that gawdawful cover of hers, she’s a sexy little tart, and we’ve already had quite some fun.

The problem is, Miss Scarlett is like that gossipy girlfriend: y’know the type:  the one you spend way too much time dishing with over a few drinks when really you should be doing something more constructive?

Aside from returning stuff at Wal-Mart, one of the items on my list of THINGS I HATE TO DO is leave  a book unfinished. I just don’t like doing it. I feel like I failed somehow. Yet, maybe it’s because I’m growing older and realizing life is short and sweet – I am starting to mellow a bit and have grown lax from time to time. (Hence the list of books I have left unfinished slowly yet steadily increasing in number). I’m going to have to add another book to that list. The book  club meeting for this month’s choice was tonight, and I still hadn’t managed to get farther than the half way point in this book.  Hence (I seem to like using that word) why I’m hanging out here rather than out with the ladies sipping wine and talking smack.

Because in the case of this book, some smack talk there would be. (I just love Yoda-isms).

This month’s pick was Soon I Will Be Invincible by Austin Grossman.

On the surface, the book seemed intriguing enough, if a little weird. All about superheroes and super villains and their personal angst and foibles and…

In the words of my 6-year-old, “IT WAS SO BO-ooo-RING.”

Really. I don’t know why exactly- the writing just didn’t hit me. I didn’t care that Dr. Impossible was a super-genius. I didn’t care that CoreFire (whoever the hell he was) is missing. And I didn’t care that some 1/2 robotic version of the Bionic Woman was getting all excited to join the super heroes (and possibly get into one of the superdude’s tights).

So here I am, trying to force myself to care whether Dr. Impossible will finally take over the world, and there is Miss Scarlett – silently seductive – just waiting, knowing I’d be much happier with her and her stockpile of romance novels just a thumb swipe away.

Over and over again, the e-reader won. And Dr. Impossible just had to stick it.

Sometimes, on the rare occasion I don’t finish the book before a book club meeting occurs, I will still endeavor to get it done. Not this time.

Oh no sir.

CoreFire can stay missing, and Dr. Impossible can do whatever it is he does on his remote island/underground lab/lair.

Miss Scarlett and I are going to get together to read some more steamy sexxoring.

I just can’t say no to her.

And she knows it, the damn little enabler.