Sunday, October 31, 2010

❤author: Jillian Hart Interview and Giveaway!

Stephanie: Exciting news...after what seems like weeks of scheduling and planning, I've finally gotten my first author interview on ¡Miraculous! It’s my pleasure to introduce author, to the blog today. Readers, be sure to help me welcome her. Jillian, will you please share a short bio with us?


Jillian: I grew up in western Washington State on a family homestead raising cattle, riding horses, river boating, fishing, hiking, camping, shooting, riding dirt bikes and, of course, reading, reading, reading. I went to college, earned an English degree and was fortunate enough to work in travel and then in advertising before selling my first novel. Since then I have written over sixty books. I love to knit, garden and catch as many movies as I can.


Stephanie: That's a lot of books! Can you tell us about some of them?


Jillian: Right now I am working on a few series. One is called The Granger Family Ranch, which are seven connected stories about the Granger family of Wild Horse, Wyoming. My current release in that series is Autumn's story, entitled His Holiday Bride. The second is my historical Buttons & Bobbins series about a sewing circle of best friends who each find true love. Patchwork Bride is my latest release in this series and it was out this last summer. The McKaslin Clan, series 4, will be resuming, hopefully, next year.
Stephanie: I'm keeping my fingers crossed too, as that's the series I keep up with :) When and why did you begin writing?

Jillian: I was in grade school when I wrote my first story, but I began telling myself stories long before that. My mom caught me when I was two years old in my crib telling myself stories out loud. It's just something that I have to do. : )


Stephanie: What inspired you to write your first book?

Jillian:
I was in fifth grade and for a class assignment wrote a short story about Murphy the Martian who had a green and purple flying saucer and a pesky little brother. I had so much fun I kept writing and that story became chapter one of my book of Murphy's adventures.



Stephanie: Precious! How did you first get published, then?

Jillian:
After six long years of full time writing and rejection, I was fortunate enough to receive a revision letter on one of my manuscripts. I rewrote the story, resubmitted and finally received a call from Harlequin Historicals. I couldn’t believe it at first. It was too good to be true. : )



Stephanie: How much of your actual life gets written into your fictional stories?

Jillian:
It depends. I have a busy imagination, so a lot of my books are born out of that. But I do put in small things, like in His Holiday Heart, Lucy's cat was named Bean. I once had a cat named Bean and I made all kinds of puns to amuse both me and the cat. Like, "Stay out of the dryer, or you will be a baked bean" or "Where have you bean?". The Granger Family Ranch has been full of things from my life. The cows I have known, horses I've loved, values I learned working with cattle and having animals' lives depend on me. Small town nuances and activities and experiences.



Stephanie: What are your biggest motivations for writing?

Jillian:
I love it. I love being carried away by a story. It's just something I love to do.



Stephanie: That's absolutely wonderful to hear! Which books, do you think, have most influenced your life most?

Jillian:
Ooh, so many books. Stories by Laura Ingalls Wilder and Lucy Maud Montgomery, to name a few.



Stephanie: What books are on your nightstand right now?

Jillian:
The first three books in Nora Robert's wedding quartet. I'm waiting for the fourth book to come out next week to start reading book one. I love reading series all in a row.



Stephanie: What’s the most challenging aspect of writing?

Jillian: It's difficult to write honestly about emotion. It's difficult for me to describe emotions and emotional development because it's not a physical thing, and it can be very draining.


Stephanie: The easiest?


Jillian: Pre-work, where I gather all my ideas, add plot and character and see the story develop.


Stephanie: And the most rewarding?


Jillian: Getting to the final page when my hero and heroine are happy in love and I know they will live happily ever after. It's a total "whew" moment.


Stephanie: What’s the most interesting comment you have ever received about your books?

Jillian:
From a reader who used to have a dress when she was young that was just like Meredith’s dress on the cover of Patchwork Bride.



Stephanie: What's next for you?

Jillian:
I'm working on several projects all at once. For my McKaslin Clan series, Brooke's story is in the drafting phase. For Granger Family Ranch, I just finished the rough draft of Addy‘s story. And I start writing the final draft on Ruby's story in my Buttons & Bobbins series Monday.



Stephanie: Where can you be found on the web?

Jillian:
My website is www.jillianhart.net.

Stephanie: Before we conclude this interview, is there anything you’d like to ask our readers?

Jillian:
What kinds of stories are your favorite romances? What kinds of heroes make you melt? What kinds of heroines do you relate best to?

Thanks so much for having me, Stephanie. You are awesome and a fabulous hostess. :)

Stephanie:
And thank you, for being here today, Jillian! Readers, Jillian is kind enough to give away TWO autographed copies of her newest release, His Holiday Bride to two lucky commenters! I also have four Harlequin Ambassador copies of one of her older titles, A McKaslin Homecoming up for grabs, which means we will have SIX winners total! To enter, all you have to do is:

  1. Follow this book blog http://thestephanieloves.blogspot.com. You must be a public follower through Google Friend Connect (or Twitter or Yahoo).
  2. Comment on this post with an answer to Jillian's question. YOU MUST INCLUDE YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS IN YOUR COMMENT.


That's it. Both things count as one entry. You're entered, my darlings! And then again...
There are additional entries. Woohoo! If you want a higher chance of winning, do any or all of the following:

  1. Go to Jillian's website at www.jillianhart.net and look through her bookshelf. Check some of books from out, and leave another comment on this post, telling me which one you'd most like to read, and why. Remember to make a new comment for this entry in order for it to count! YOU MUST INCLUDE YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS IN YOUR COMMENT. (2 EXTRA entries!)
  2. Follow me on Twitter @lovestephanieg and leave a separate comment with your Twitter username. YOU MUST INCLUDE YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS IN YOUR COMMENT. (2 EXTRA entries!)
The more entries, the higher your chance of winning!
All winners will be chosen at random on Sunday, November 7 at 11.59pm EST. Best commenter will win an especially awesome prize (so make your comments for Jillian good!). Winners have three days to claim their prizes. After three days, consolation winners will be chosen. Good luck!

WINNERS: Congrats to Kathy and Jessie who both won signed copies of His Holiday Bride, and congrats to Lauren who won a signed Harlequin Ambassador copy of A McKaslin Homecoming as well! Thanks for entering, ladies!

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Trouble With Women

I had a funny, funny conversation with my friend Drake, yesterday. We were sophisticatedly debating court terms, a discussion of intellectuals:

Me: So a defense's stipulation in session benefits the prosecution, right?

Him: No, you have it all wrong.

Me: Well, excuse me for being legally retarded!

My words had not come out exactly how I had imagined them in my head.

Me: Don't give me that look, you knew exactly what I meant. I understand my stipulations perfectly, thank you.

Him: In that case, you'd make a good lawyer.

Me: Maybe if lawyers had a good fashion sense, though. I would NEVER wear a solid business blazer with a shadowed pencil skirt.

Then he did something very disturbing, which was quote Legally Blonde:

Him: The rules of hair care are simple and finite... any Cosmo girl would have known.


(...an elongated awkward silence later).

Him (looking straight at me): STEPHANIE.


Who, me?
Okay, now it wasn't entirely my fault that I happened to have my little compact out, right then. I wasn't actually putting on makeup in that classroom or anything, I was just checking on my mascara. It was him to blame really, for pulling out such an irrelevant topic out when we had been discussing law, for crying out loud. Plus, guys are really annoying when they quote movies.

I by all means, am not any sort of beauty queen. I own more tubes of lipgloss and sticks of eyeliner than absolutely necessary, but these days, what girl doesn't? But what Drake said to me actually sort of offended me. Was he really comparing me to Elle Woods? It just wasn't right.

The entire carride home, I was silent (not normal for Stephanie, not normal at all). I slowly trudged to my room, took out my binders, textbooks, and other crap to prepare for an evening of funfunfun work. It was when I was digging in my front pocket of my backpack in search of a pen, my worst of fears was confirmed: I was actually, legitimately a Narcissist.

How did I come to this conclusion? Let's see here... All I wanted was a pen. A pen, that's all. Here's what I grabbed before I actually found my pen, however:
  1. Three tubes of mascara
  2. One tube of Lancôme mascara base
  3. One bottle of Binaca breath spray
  4. One packet of Listerine breath strips
  5. One ColorStay eyeshadow pallette
  6. One UbyKotex tampon
  7. One eyelash comb
  8. Two tubes of lip balm
What this indicates about my character, I'm not so certain. Actually, I'm very certain. It's clear that I am a freak about my eyelashes and I have exceptionally stinky breath. Don't believe me?

Maybe Drake was correct to call me a "Cosmo girl" (whatever the hell that means, anyway), after all. By the way, did you know Cosmopolitan is not only a teeny weeny alcoholic beverage, but also a women's sex magazine? Just wanted to be thoughtful and enlighten you.

If you're wondering what's wrong with me right now, I'll have you know I am being an excellent procrastinator. It's 11.43 pm and I still haven't completed my literature essay (due for the seminar tomorrow... hurray!)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Freefall by Mindi Scott: Cover Contest

I've entered in Truth Be Told's cover contest for Mindi Scott's newest release, Freefall! Go ahead to the blog post to submit your own entry. If your cover is voted best, you could win a signed copy of the book! How exciting! If you decide not to enter, be sure to check back in two weeks so you can vote for your favorite covers. That being said...vote for mine :) I am entry #2: Stephanie.
 Original Cover:
Cover I designed:

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Stranger In the Night


"We should dance," Brady smiled. Prom night.


I heard a voice. "Excuse me," someone said from behind.


"Sorry, sorry" Brady muttered.


Me, I couldn't speak. It was his eyes; they smoldered. I had never seen a guy with black eyes before. Taking one look at his face --pale, chiseled, eerily handsome-- I was totally, totally lost.


"Stephanie," he grinned. I parted my lips, but couldn't speak.


"Stephanie?" I couldn't hear Brady. I couldn't even tell he was still there. Everything was a big, buzzing blur; his hand at my waist, it wasn't even there. I swear it wasn't.


"Stephanie," the guy said again. Brady was gone. Where was Brady?


I looked at his lips, and gulped. He was so enthralling, so gorgeous it was frightening; I couldn't look at him for long. But I had to. I looked at his lips because I would have combusted if I looked at his eyes any longer. His lips were smooth, elegant, so different from his cold, dark eyes, and suddenly...


We were outside the school, outside with the wind. I hadn't remembered this calm June night having any wind. He pressed me tightly against the wall. I gasped.


"How do you know my name?" His chest pushed me tighter and tighter against that brick wall.


He brushed his lips gently against mine, gently like a spinning autumn leaf, and I shuddered, but complied.


Looking back on it now, he never answered my question. I didn't notice, then.


He grabbed my wrists with both hands and locked them into place. He fingered my corsage, the one Brady had given me that night, and I was so scared he would take it off, but he didn't. Brady seemed thousands of years away.


"What's your name?" I persisted, hardly breathing. I couldn't breathe at all. He was holding me too tightly.


"Hunter," he said. With that smooth, sly smile of his: "I'm Hunter."


Despite the chills that sent my senses screaming wherever his lips touched, I frowned, when they found my neck.


"Get off me," My screams fell silent. No one heard me, and neither did he.


Before I knew what was happening, one of his hands tautened around my neck, and the other slid up my hip, under my dress.


"Hunter," I pleaded, helplessly.


When his lips met mine again, I found myself kissing him back. What was I doing? Our lips locked fiercely; tongues touched, teeth clicked.


"Stephanie?" I choked for breath, and fell forward. My face hit the ground first. The sting was nothing compared to the burning of my wrists where Hunter's fingers had once been, the scalding of my neck where they had tightened, and the heaviness of my chest, where he once was. Once. Hunter had vanished.


People, Leila, Brady, others who I couldn't recognize in the blur of tears, rushed towards me. Leila grasped my face --"Oh my God. She's bleeding!"-- and her cool fingers flitted around my body, feeling the scrapes on my skin, the damage of my dress.


"Hunter," was the last thing I said that night.


"Hunter who? What are you doing? Why are you so pale?" Questions shot out in the air, all of them unanswered.


I realized none of them saw him. He had gotten away before they found me. We all breathed hard, eyes wide, but no one else's heart was pumping faster than mine. I looked around. Hunter was gone, leaving only a slight breeze. A single red petal plucked off a rose on my corsage. I watched as it drifted away, floating, softly floating, into the dark, lonely night.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥: Top Ten Uses for an Unworn Prom Dress by Tina Ferraro

There are some books that make you want to rip your roots out of your head (example), and then there are some that are so easy and breezy to read/comprehend, that you can't keep your hands off it. Top Ten Uses for an Unworn Prom Dress by Tina Ferraro was a book of the latter description. There's nothing that I like better in a book, than the style it portrays, of "beach read":

Top Ten Uses for an Unworn Prom Dress
Tina Ferraro

Page Count: 240
Release Date: 13 March, 2007
Publisher: Delacorte (Random House)
Source: Received a copy as a gift from the author, with no expectations of a review, let alone a positive one (thank you, Tina!!!)


Sophomore year, Nicolette Antonovich was dumped two days before prom by the hottest guy at school. As a result, she became the proud owner of one unworn, perfectly magical pink vintage dress. But Nic is determined to put that night behind her for good. She's a junior now— older, wiser, and completely overwhelmed by a new set of problems: (1) The bank's ready to foreclose on her childhood home. (2) Her father's too busy with his "replacement" daughter to care. (3) Her best friend's brother is an eternal thorn in her side. (4) Her best friend isn't exactly the rose attached to that thorn. (5) Rumors are flying around school that could get her kicked off the volleyball team, which would (6) ruin all chances of a college scholarship. (7) She still likes the boy who dumped her in the first place. (8) And what in the world do you do with an unworn prom dress, anyway? Strangely, it's getting to the bottom of this last dilemma that just might hold the answer to all Nic's problems.

Tina Ferraro makes reading so fun. Not only was the plot lively and enjoyable, but her style is just so... me. I felt like I was Nic, I felt like I could apply to all the concerns she had.

Every girl has gotten her heart b r o k e n by a guy she's smitten with. Every girl has experienced unrequited love within the high school hierarchy, because there's always that one boy she's in love with, that's put his heart in another girl's hands. Well, that's Nic.

See, she gets asked to prom by the boy of her dreams, but, nightmare of all nightmares: the night of, his out-of-town girlfriend is suddenly so in-town, and she gets stood up. The horror!

But maybe getting stood up by a guy who you've always liked, but never really gotten to know, isn't so bad after all. Maybe it'll give you freedom to do other things, like practice for the volleyball team, or maybe, just maybe, you'll have room to realize that your crush was superficial, and that there's someone else out there, who'll be good to you like they really mean it. And you never know—there just might be a better use for that unworn prom dress (still hanging in your closet), that will make skipping prom all the more worthwhile, that you would never have imagined.

With the quirky and intriguing voice of a distressed high school student that every girl has been, Tina Ferraro creates a fast-paced, heartwarming page-turner that teaches the value of the prettier things in life, and the value of a really nice prom dress too.

Radical Rating: 8 hearts: An engaging read; highly recommended. ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

You could tell I felt like really messing around with colors today...and evidently, the review/description colors are inverted. Might keep it this way. Have a marvelous rest of the week!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Definitions of Love: What We Want

I am loved in your...
We are always happy.
Life is funny, isn't it?
You know you love me
Please enjoy this sweet day.
Bring me all your smiles
(I love you but I'll never tell)
Remember...
Love because it is why you exist;
I bet you know it.
So after all these things you have put me through,
Tell me why, I'm still in love with you?
It's foolish so why?
You know how we go.
It's because the sun shines so bright
And while we sit here
I want you to know:
Through all the laughs, tears, pep talks, and rewarding nights we shared, I somehow fell in love.
Strange;
That's what I say.
Love;
That's what we are.
And always, it's the way you look at me
When you think I'm not looking back.
It's the way you make me laugh
When I don't even want to smile.
It's the way I desire for you to hold me closer;
I want to hear your heart beat.
I've realized that maybe the reason I can't get you out of my mind
Is because you're supposed to be there
I want you to take me
And never let go
It's not only always, but also forever.

An original poem composed by yours truly
Um...I was looking through my old slushpile and came across this poetry "series" I made. Don't know what's more ridiculous, the poems themselves, or the fact that I about twelve when I wrote them.

Friday, October 1, 2010

♥♥♥♥♥♥: Eye of the Fortuneteller by R.L. Stine

I remember in elementary school when we had weekly trips to the library, we'd always look at the shelf that held all of R.L. Stine's classics. The Goosebumps series—gosh, they caused a ruckus! We little first graders would all be standing in a lopsided line, waiting for the librarian to check our books out for us, and while the long wait, we'd glance by the "horror" bookshelf. I don't think they were much too popular, so they were located on a bottom shelf; however, at three-and-a-half feet standing, they were right at eye level for us. Perfect.

"You know what the scariest thing ever is?" one boy taunted me. "Reading one of these books. They will haunt you forever."

"So?" I said. The covers looked pretty scary, but being a book freak even then, I found it hard to believe that a book could actually scare you.

"In the dark," he continued. "These books are scary if you read them in the dark."

I was not impressed. First of all, everyone knew that you couldn't read a book in the dark unless it had glow-in-the-dark text. Second of all, the dark never really had adverse effects on me as a child, so to me, reading the book in the dark would have been the same as reading one on the sun.

Nevertheless, the fact that the horror novels could supposedly haunt me forever was not a very appealing idea. I never picked up one of the books, and never had thought about it, until I was given the opportunity to review Eye of the Fortuneteller by R.L. Stine. It isn't Goosebumps, but it comes pretty darn close...
Eye of the Fortuneteller (Ghosts of Fear Street #6)
R.L. Stine

Page Count: 105
Release Date: 1 March, 1996
Publisher: Aladdin (Simon & Schuster)
Source: Complimentary copy provided by LibraryThing Member Giveaways in exchange for an honest and unbiased review (thank you!)

Who's afraid of the ghosts of Fear Street?

Not Kelsey Moore. She's lived on Fear Street all her life, and she's not afraid of anything.
Until she meets Madame Valda—a strange old woman who says she can see into the future. She tells Kelsey that only fools are fearless. Kelsey just laughs.

But she isn't laughing when she climbs into bed—and finds it full of disgusting sand crabs. Or when she goes for a swim—and finds the ocean swarming with giant jellyfish! All of Kelsey's worst fears are coming to life!

Has Madame Valda doomed Kelsey to live in fear forever?

The only plausible way this book can be considered a horror novel takes me back to first grade, when even all the boys were afraid to read R.L. Stine. The only plausible way this book would eternally terrify a person, is if they were six years old.

The plot is simple:
  1. Kelsey and her cousin, Drew encounter a creepy gypsy.
  2. Kelsey and her cousin, Drew anger the creepy gypsy.
  3. Kelsey and her cousin, Drew are cursed by the creepy gypsy; they get lost and chased by a rabid dog.
  4. Kelsey has hallucinations about the only things in the world she is afraid of: sand crabs.
  5. Kelsey has hallucinations about the only OTHER things in the world she is afraid of: horseflies and jellyfish.
That's really the "scary" element of the story; but for someone like me who cannot imagine a sand crab being scary, it was hard to associate.

Being a children's novel, it did end happily (SPOILER: Kelsey's curse is lifted by some gypsies who aren't quite as evil as the first one she encountered), but I totally saw it coming. Children's stories never end tragically, but that factor probably also made the story less horrific too.

Eye of the Fortuneteller was a quick, I-should-be-doing-something-productive-but-instead-I-am-entertaining-myself read. I read it in about twenty minutes, as the there are only 105 pages and the font size is about 16.

I enjoyed taking a break from the really dramatic genre that makes you think too much (we're studying Dickens in class right now... ugh), but having already graduated from elementary school, this book wasn't really for me. 

Radical Rating: 6 hearts: Satisfying for a first read, but I'm not going back. ♥♥♥♥♥♥