Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day Tribute

The Memorial Day Parade begins in front of my house every year. Well, parts of it. Participants line up along neighboring side streets, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, school groups, Veterans, local emergency services like the Fire Department, antique and classic car groups, and many other organizations who come out to pay tribute and remember the soldiers who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our country. 70,000 veterans live in the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania.

Memorial Day—originally called Decoration Day—unofficially began in 1865 to honor the fallen Union soldiers of the Civil War. The southern states didn’t observe the holiday (for obvious reasons) until after WWI.
Corvets line up for the start of the Memorial Day Parade. Fire Trucks are waiting down the opposite street.

In the cemetery near my house, there are numerous graves of GAR soldiers (Grand Army of the Republic). The GAR was composed of Union soldier veterans who had served in the Civil War. This was also among the first advocacy groups formed in the United States for American soldiers so the soldiers could network and maintain contact with each other. To this day, American flags are placed on their grave sites every Memorial Day.

I also remember my dad, Bernard John Dawson (1932-2002) who was a U.S. Navy Signalman during the Korean War. He was also a Navy scuba diver, before there were Navy Seals. I remember him letting me try out his scuba equipment in the lake near our house when I was eleven or twelve. The equipment consisted of double hose regulator, huge black rubber fins, a mask that was too big for my face. I scrunched my toes so the fins stayed on, and held the mask tight to my face to slow the leaks. My dad’s only instructions: “Don’t hold your breath, keep breathing. If you have a problem, drop everything and swim to the surface. I’ll get the stuff later.” I was part fish back then. I swam around the lake underwater, through the weeds, checking out the fish. Don’t think my mother knew or she’d have killed my dad. Many years later, I became a dive master. Thanks, Dad.

For those who see Memorial Day as the start of summer and celebrate with family picnics and barbecues, here’s a Key Lime Pie recipe.

Key Lime Pie

Prepare Ahead

4 egg yolks
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
¼ cup key lime juice (I use Nellie’s & Joe’s Key West Lime Juice, or fresh squeezed key limes would be the best.)
1 9-inch baked graham cracker crust pie shell

4 egg whites
½ tsp cream of tartar
8 Tablespoons of sugar (I use a little less)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Blend egg yolks and milk until well mixed. Slowly add the lime juice, mixing well. Custard will thicken as you add the lime juice. Pour into baked crust. Top with meringue.

Meringue: Beat egg whites with cream of tartar until stiff. Slowly add sugar while beating. Whip until whites hold stiff peaks. Top pie filling. Bake 10 minutes or until meringue is delicately browned. Serve chilled.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Extraordinary World of Steampunk

At the last conference I attended, I heard the buzz about Steampunk, saw attendees dressed in steampunkish wear and was totally fascinated. I don’t claim to know what this amazing world is all about but I am quite intrigued that one can combine brass googles, motorcycle boots, a tight corset, suede or lace skirt and somehow manage to look gorgeously steamfashioned.

A long time fan of alternative fiction, science fiction and fantasy, I’m so glad to see books coming out in this sub-genre, especially romance. According to author Jeff VanderMeer, Steampunk, a term first coined in 1987, is a “retro- and forward-looking sense of adventure and discovery.” Steampunk has hit pop culture, and we can see influences in movies, art, comics and fashion.
Click on the link to his article about the history of Steampunk

I’ve done some research on this topic and found that there are some die-hard Steampunk fans. Some who are purists about certain details. Similarly, there are avid fans in the vampire realms and the Regency era and I think it’s cool that these groups have such a loyal community. As with the vampire genre, I think this sub-genre will evolve as well where authors will create their own worlds and their own rules. Still, there must be a balance so verisimilitude and the flavor of Steampunk are maintained.

Ask different people what Steampunk is and you’ll get a variety of definitions. I found several different definitions on various websites and blogs. To me, Steampunk is usually (but not always) set during the 1800s where technology somehow has gone a bit skewed. Scientific advancements combine with the old, mechanical devices tend to be steam-powered, and are comprised of gears, cogs and clockwork parts. Dirigibles, time machines, mechanical spiders, automatons, amazing underwater ships and cities, underground cities and moon rockets are just some of the oddities that can be found in Steampunk. But the setting doesn’t end there. Futuristic and otherworldly Steampunk setting are showing up. Look at the movie City of Ember. And don't forget the characters. I think the characters in Steampunk story are adventure seeking, daring, and at times stubborn, rebellious and rough around the edges outlaws or distinquished gentlemen. Wonderful sources for stories and heroes.

Thanks to BrassGoggles for the following definitions. She has a fabulous site on all things Steampunk.

Victorian Science Fiction – Steampunk set in Victorian era with futuristic or science fiction elements. Think: The Time Machine by H. G. Wells.
Gaslamp Fantasy – The Girl Genius Steampunk, tight bodices, slapstick comedy and non-humans. Setting is variable, doesn’t have to be Victorian.
Fireside Science Fiction – A warm and cozy type where Victorian gentlefolk may begin their adventure around a fireplace with a small brandy, but could end up on the moon or beyond!
Neo-Victoriania – A Japanese originated alternative where the aim is to recreate certain Victorian aspects of life using modern tools and ways. Elegant Gothic Lolita.
Wild/Weird West – Centered on the American West in the 19th Century. You’ll find cowboys and scientists alongside saloon girls and giant mechanical spiders. Wild, Wild, West.
Voyages Extraordinaire – As seen in the Victorian adventures of Jules Verne.
Scientific Romance – An early, mostly British, name for science fiction, that fell out of fashion, but was also used to describe Verne’s works. Now being used more for nostalgic Victorian based science fiction.

I also came across Industrial Steampunk (futuristic), Clockpunk (1500s), dieselpunk (WWII) and Cyberpunk (computer/informational). I’m sure there are others.
Here’s Wiki’s take on Steampunk

So what do you like about Steampunk? What do you know about it? Please share your views.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Adventures in Herb Gardening

While in the Poconos this weekend, I was sitting outside with my family and a young guy in his early twenties walked over to the picnic table carrying a potted plant in each hand. One plant looked like a prickly pear cactus and the other, a scraggly green plant of some sort. He went on to tell my step-sister how he found the cactus partially uprooted and nearly dead in some rocks in the woods, and then managed to transplant it. He was showing us how well it was doing. Apparently, the prickly pear cactus, the state cactus of Texas and found throughout the Southwest is the only natively grown cactus in Pennsylvania (and the eastern United States and southern Canada). I grew up in this area, hiked, camped and never knew cactus grew here. I figured it would be too cold.

The other plant he was giving to my step-sister was sage for her herb garden and gave her a few suggestions for cooking. So the topic of herb gardens started which gave me an idea. I’ve been looking at the bare small patio area by my back door and trying to figure out what to do with it. Why not put in a potted herb garden? And a few potted flowers?

I was told all I need are large pots, (Herbs need a lot of space because they can grow fast) good potting soil, organic fertilizer, water and at least four hours of sun. Sounds easy? Hmmm. Right.

Considering most of my daffodils didn’t come up this year and I can’t figure out why, this may be a waste of time. But I’m not entirely a failure at gardening. I have a few things that grow well. Lavender grows like weeds and my hydrangea are huge (I did kill them one year with fertilizer but they came back.) The iris's are looking good too and black-eyed susans want to take over the garden by the end of summer.

What herbs to grow? I’ll try a few to start. I’ll pick a couple from this list: Rosemary, Sage, Mint, Oregano, Marjoram, Basil, Thyme, Tarragon, Savory, Cilantro, Chives, Dill, and Parsley.

Herbs can be used for cooking, teas, healing purposes, or made into fragrant potpourris. Or grown for the added variety of colors and textures in the garden.

Some of the uses for herbs: Basil is one of my favorites, especially mixed with fresh tomatoes, mozzarella, olive oil and balsamic vinegar, but it is also said to be an anti-inflammatory.

Mint can be dried and brewed into teas that may soothe stomachaches.

Parsley is high in iron and vitamins A, B, C and trace minerals.

Thyme has been used for its infection-fighting and cough suppressive qualities. Thyme tea is an old time cough and hangover remedy.

Lavender—I like to snip the flowers, place them in a mesh bag and tuck them under my pillow to help me sleep.

I’ll start shopping for my supplies and let you know how my herb garden does.


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Romantic Times Convention 2010 Hot Topics

*Check out the contest for Passion Sense members at the end of this post.

I attended the Romantic Times Convention in Columbus, Ohio last week from April 28th – May 1st, my third RT, and as always it was a blast. I enjoyed seeing my author friends and making new ones, talking about the business, books, promo, etc. I helped out with decorations for the Ellora’s Cave party on Tuesday and Wednesday and was totally amazed by the amount of work the EC staff puts in for this event. Same goes for the staff at the RT magazine.

There were a number of great workshops and panels. It was hard to choose many times. I did sit in on a panel about vampires with Charlaine Harris and a number of others. It was fun to watch fans go up and descend upon the speaker table. I sat in on workshops about marketing and promotions, contract issues, various publishers’ spotlights, the agents’ panel, and a panel about steampunk.

Water and Fire element faeries

Kathy Kulig - Faery Ball

Cris Anson & Lacey Thorn

It was great to finally get to meet some of the FF & P gang at the Happy Hour and trying some of the interesting cocktail concoctions. Thanks to Liz and Dawn and everyone who set that up. What a nice group.

Mark & Tracy Cooper-Posey, HOT, HOT, HOT

Cindy Spencer-Pape, pretty & earthy

Stephanie Julian & Judi Fennell

Kathleen Coddington & Tina Gallager
Ellora's Cave Party

The two panels I did went well: Twitter Unplugged and Building Paranormals from the Ground Up. I have a few new Tweeple following me and everyone picked up my handout “Why am I Not Being Followed”. I had a fan girl moment chatting with Rebecca York who sat next to me on the panel. Squeee! We talked about gardening, shapeshifters, and Sedona, Arizona. She’s planning a trip there and wants to write a future book/series with that setting. I told her DAMNED AND DESIRED is set in Sedona. She had her husband stop by my table at the book signing to ask me about Sedona some more. Stella Price was on the panel too and what a sweetheart. I loved her steampunkish outfits. I could get into that.

I also had the pleasure to talk briefly to Barry Eisler and JA Konrath. I’m a fan of both. Joe Konrath played a part in Heather Graham’s Vampire Ball play. What a riot. I kept having flashback images of John Belushi in Animal House. Except Joe had some kind of furry hat. (Sorry Joe).
Barry Eisler, Kathy, JA Konrath

The book fair was PACKED. Quite a turn out. Off course fans swarmed to JR Ward and Charlaine Harris. After a short time, fans had to take numbers and they announced about 20 or 40 at a time to help keep the lines manageable. JR Ward cut off signing at 1500!!! A YA author Rochelle Mead sat across from me and she had a huge line. Finally, they moved her to her own table. She stayed late to sign everyone. Never heard how many.

The Dorchester Party had a theme – Prom Night. Old 50s, 60s Prom night. Some people wore prom type dresses and they played oldies. It was fun. But the best part of the night was that in the smaller ball room adjacent to our ball room, there was a REAL high school promo going on. One cute young couple apparently walked into the wrong ball room. They took one look at the dance floor and realized their mistake. OMG wrong prom! They quickly left.

CONTEST for Passion Sense Newsletter members only:
Win a Jimmy Thomas tote bag. Jimmy made up these fabulous oversized tote bags for the RT Convention. And I have two to give away.

They’re a burgundy red color decorated with photos from the book covers he has modeled. All in vivid color. Some of the covers include: PUNISHMENT AND MERCY by Cris Anson, PRETEND WITH ME by Amber Skyze, and DRIVEN BY HUNGER by Desiree Holt. There are 36 covers total. It’s gorgeous. People at the RT Convention were carrying these around.

To WIN: You must be a member of my PASSION SENSE NEWSLETTER. It’s a once a month and occasional announcement Yahoogroup. If you're not a member, click here to sign up:
or send a blank email to:

As a Passion Sense member you're automatically entered. I’ll draw a random name on June 1st and July 1st. I’ll announce the names in the newsletter.