Romantic Urban Fantasy - Fast-Paced Contemporary Romance

Promote! (yikes) Discuss! (yay)

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Aug 6, 2015 Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, Writing , , , , 0 Comments

Ever wonder how Bernie inherited a golem? Want to revisit romantic (or pithy) moments with Max?

I’m taking the plunge and starting a Facebook “Street Team” in which to hang out, discuss my plots and characters, share favorite exerpts, and get the inside scoop on those notorious Works in Progress.

This is a small, closed group exclusively for readers who’d like to receive advanced copies and help me get reviews and spread the word about my books.

If that sounds interesting, click the banner below to join. And don’t forget: It’s not who you know but whose soul you own that really matters!

Plus…you know…swag.

FB STREET TITLED Banner for other places

Friday Fashion Find

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Jul 31, 2015 1920s, Fashion, Reproduction, Women's Fashion , , 2 Comments

It’s pretty amazing how many beautiful 1920s dresses are still out there for reasonable prices, but  I’m not sure you’d actually dare wearing any of them. The heavy beading tended to wear out the fragile fabrics.

This lovely dress is actually a modern reproduction (size large) made from a 1920s pattern.  Listed at $263.53 at JulieVintageBoutique on ETSY, I’d feel no guilt wearing it at all!

1920s-style Sterling Grey Charcoal Silver Flapper Dress,

 

Maybe I won’t take up graphic design for a living

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Jul 29, 2015 Historical Urban Fantasy, Indie Publishing, Urban Fantasy, Writing , , , , , 2 Comments

I had an interesting (and long) day designing a postcard to advertise Speakeasy Dead on one side, and a friend’s indie game called Gangster Dice on the other. The game was recently funded on Kickstarter and is going to feature an appearance by none other than Bernard Benjamin himself. I haven’t played it yet, but from what I’ve heard, it’s a hoot!

It's a work in progress

Work in progress

Of course, in order to put the QR code (which you can use with a smartphone app to link directly to a website, among other things), I had to generate a separate landing page for Speakeasy Dead….which meant a fast overhaul of my website. While I was there, I put up the beginnings of what will be page for my new Contemporary Romance series, set to release January 7, about which details will be coming later.

THEN, when all was done, I found out the card size I set up is 1/2 inch too big for the Gangster Dice box. Better now than after they’re printed, right?

So…back to the design board. Tomorrow. Or maybe next week. I’ve got a contemporary romance to finish, after all.

If you’re curious, check out the Gangster Dice KickStarter page for a preview.

At Last! Jeeves & Wooster in Bed!

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Jul 15, 2015 Blandings, Jeeves and Wooster, P.G. Wodehouse , , , , , , , , , 2 Comments

It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of Jeeves & Wooster. Well, of P.G. Wodehouse. Well, of anything relating to P.G. Wodehouse that’s fabulously done.

"She looked like a tomato struggling for self-expression." -P.G. Wodehouse

“She looked like a tomato struggling for self-expression.” -P.G. Wodehouse

As far as moving pictures, this amounts to  the 1990s Jeeves & Wooster BBC show staring the incredibly talented Hugh Laurie & Stephen Fry, and the recent (cancelled, dammit) Blandings, which had a mixed first season but a terrific second year….

"Unlike the male codfish, which, suddenly finding itself the parent of three million five hundred thousand little codfish, cheerfully resolves to love them all, the British aristocracy is apt to look with a somewhat jaundiced eye on its younger sons." -P.G. Wodehouse

“Unlike the male codfish, which, suddenly finding itself the parent of three million five hundred thousand little codfish, cheerfully resolves to love them all, the British aristocracy is apt to look with a somewhat jaundiced eye on its younger sons.” -P.G. Wodehouse

…and let me digress a moment to say what a brilliant (and undercredited) performace Jack Farthing turned in as Freddie Threepwood. Dundering, but with a truely lovable sly edge.

They also filmed Blandings at what may possibly be the coolest location, ever. I don’t know if the interiors were the same place, but the art-deco entryway (much utilized) is worth the price of the series.

Crom Castle, Northern Ireland (via Wikimedia Commons)

Crom Castle, Northern Ireland (via Wikimedia Commons)

Speaking of castles, Downton Abbey fans may be crushed into the dust to know that Highclaire Castle served as Madeline Bassett’s Totleigh Towers decades before the Granthams moved in.

Highclere Castle (via Wikimedia Commons)

Highclere Castle (via Wikimedia Commons)

Let’s see…on screen, Lord Grantham’s got posession of the old homestead as of 1926, and Jeeves and Wooster is a bit wibbly-wobbly-timey-wimey between the 1920s-30s. I hope doesn’t mean Lady Mary will be forced to sell!

More seriously (still not a lot), I do, of course, love Downton Abbey. Who can resist watching, if only for the beautifully recreated 1920s styles?

Downton Abbey's Rose - invented to give the show a "flapper."

Downton Abbey’s Rose – invented to give the show a “flapper.”

 

Which brings us back to Jeeves & Wooster. I’ve chafed for years because, while I have them on DVD, the only streaming option has been to rent individual episodes. Since I mostly watch TV on my iPhone under the covers, that meant getting my J&W fix from fuzzy bootleg Youtube videos. *sigh*

But sigh no more! Yesterday I discovered that the HD version that came out on blue ray a few months ago is finally available to purchase for streaming. Yay BBC! Yay Internet! Yay Jeeves & Wooster. But most of all, Yay P.G. Wodehouse.

Jeeves and Wooster season 1 HD

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Tea is for Tuesday

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Jun 30, 2015 1920s, Women's Fashion, Women's Hats, Women's shoes , , , Comments are off

The 1920s was the first era when tanning became fashionable, so after yesterday’s refreshing lounge on the beach, it’s time to show some skin at an afternoon party or a visit to the local tea shop.

Summer party illustration

 

Hats with tea dresses tended to be conservative (no wild feathered headbands). This one ought to do.

1926 Hat (Metropolitan Museum of Art)

1926 Hat (Metropolitan Museum of Art)

Strictly speaking, these pumps are a little formal for tea, but they’ve got flowers on them, so I think we can pull it off.

1920s Ivory and Gold Bullion Brocade Pumps (source http://eng.shoe-icons.com/)

1920s Ivory and Gold Bullion Brocade Pumps (source http://eng.shoe-icons.com/)

 

And of course, most important of all, the dresss!

Summer tea dress deatil

White mixed lace tea dress, c.1920 from vintagetextile.com

1918 at the Beach

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Jun 29, 2015 1920s, Beach, Clothing, Summer , , , , , , , 1 Comment

It’s summer, and while that means nice blocks of time for writing, it also means I’d rather spend my time at the beach. Since we don’t have a lot of beaches in Southern Arizona, I’m compromising with a virtual trip to 1918 via that bastion of 1920s style (and naughtiness) La Vie Parisienne.

Le plongeon, La Vie Parisienne 1918

André Edouard Marty “Le plongeon” – La Vie Parisienne, 1918

1920s bathing suits were generally knitted from wool, and while there are hints of sleek, abbreviated fashions to come (even Russian bikinis!) the best that can be said for most of them is that the people at the beach seem to be having fun.

But even a wool suit looks good in the hands of a great illustrator. Sign me up for the 1918 bus tour to the French Riviera!

Nelson Beaches, NZ  Advertisement c1920

Nelson Beaches, NZ c1920 (www.teara.govt.nz)

Bernie and Clara don’t visit the beach in Speakeasy Dead, although we see in Keys to the Coven that the Woodsen Homestead resides beside one of the region’s few lakes. Summer is short in Northern Arizona. I’ll have to hurry up with a sequel if they want to work on their tan.

Vicky Loebel’s Choose Your Own “Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography” Review

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Oct 29, 2014 Book Review, Reviews , , Comments are off

Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography Amazon Associates' linkI’m going to diverge from not posting 1920s stuff in order to post an actual review of Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography.

I have an unusual (fannish) relationship with NPH. I’d never heard of him as Doogie Howser. I had no interest in How I Met Your Mother. And I never watched the Tony Awards, which always go to a bunch of revivals, Disney monstrosities, and sappy adaptations of the minor works of major poets, and why doesn’t anybody write amazing and interesting songs like “I got the horse right here” or “Johanna” anymore?

So, as I was saying, the first time I saw Neil Patrick Harris to remember him was when my son made me watch Doctor Horrible’s Sing-Along-Blog which was a little too camp for my taste despite the fact I already knew and liked Felicia Day, from The Guild, and Nathan Fillion from everything.

My son LOVED Dr. Horrible, and over the next couple of weeks proceeded to play the show over and over, and three things began to sink into my skull.

  1. Despite the cheese factor, the songs are very well written with interesting lyrics
  2. Damn, that Neil Patrick Harris guy can sing
  3. Zack actually gets the best song on “Commentary” but we’ll leave that for another blog.

In olden days, that would have been that, but in this glorious age, I was able to ask myself the musical question, “Is this three-named celebrity in anything else?” Ten YouTube-Tony-Award-watching minutes later, I had my answer, and I was blown away. Because, damn, revisit #2 above.

This leads us to my review of Neil Patrick Harris Choose Your Own Autobiography, which I highly recommend in the NPH-read audiobook format. You get less choice about whether to achieve stardom or die, but the information’s all there and, as NPH helpfully points out, you don’t have to read. The book rips off a fun format that I (and probably every other reviewer on earth) cannot resist stealing. And so, without more ado, I give you:

Vicky Loebel’s Choose Your Own “Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography” Review

It is a warm, sunny afternoon. You are in the kitchen about to clean up yesterday’s dishes (because your housekeeping standards are low) and cook home-made pizza for your son (because food standards are a little higher)  when you download the latest audiobook purchase that you made with credits intended to last a year but which actually ran out after three months. The book is Neil Patrick Harris Choose Your Own Autobiography, read by NPH, and you’re excited because, even if the producers of How I Met Your Mother violated every principle of reader—er—viewer trust when they [spoiler alert] laughed, “Hah hah! We take it back!” in the last three minutes of the ninth season, you still think NPH is an  astonishingly talented guy. Also, you heard him talk about the book on the Fresh Air podcast and he sounded nice.

To continue with this book, move on to the next paragraph. To learn about the end of How I Met Your Mother, google it. You’ll be busy all day.

You put minced onions and zucchini on the stove to sweat, tap Play on your Audible App, and NPH himself launches into the story of his life. It’s a great story: witty, full of sensible observations, generous recollections, and measured responses to celebrity life. A tale describing one man’s heartwarming determination to be ambitious and kind while remaining firm to his principles, conscious of his good fortune, and devoted to his family. In fact…it’s almost too good to be true.

To take the book at face value and fall platonically in love with NPH, jump to the Conclusion in the last paragraph. For a more cynical response, continue reading.

Your first thought, listening to NPH, is that he’s an amazing guy. Talented, but humble. Sensible about what he wants without an overblown sense of self-importance. And smart. Not only is the man a good writer, he’s clearly very, very smart. And he’s an entertainer. And he likes magic—he’s even gone so far as to place do-it-yourself counting…er…card tricks right in the book! That’s when the first crack appears in your fannish burst of admiration, because you ask, “What sort of autobiography would a really smart guy who was experienced in entertainment and misdirection write about himself?” And the answer’s there staring at you. Exactly this one.

To quell your cynicism and continue reading, skip past the next three paragraphs to Jump 1. To leap to unsubstantiated conclusions and accidentally crush your iPhone, continue reading.

You stir organic tomato paste into the sauce and begin peeling the skin off several sticks of pepperoni. Despite the joy of engaging in this entertaining prep step, you find yourself more and more skeptical about the autobiography. Nobody, you think, can be that talented AND nice. Look at….

You have to stop and ponder because you don’t really know the names of any celebrities except Nathan Fillion, and you’re pretty sure he really is nice. There’s Joss Whedon and, while you don’t know if he’s nice or not, people DO seem to like him. Plus he did a popular film version of Much Ado About Nothing for which he gets a free pass for the rest of his life. You contemplate leaving the sauce to burn and making a list on the internet of people who are talented and whether or not they are reputed to be nice, but this seems like a lot of trouble, and so you simply jump to the conclusion: Neil Patrick Harris is not entirely perfect!

You SLAM your oversized pepperoni-peeling knife on the kitchen table, forgetting in one instant of outrage that that is where you set the iPhone playing the audiobook. You hear a sickening crack (why, oh why hasn’t Apple switched to Sapphire Glass?) and Neil Patrick Harris is silenced…forever.

Jump 1:
Although you realize that NPH’s autobiography is the product of a wickedly self-aware intelligence, you figure “hey, it’s his book; he gets to say what he wants” and go on to enjoy a series of interesting anecdotes mixed with the occasional testimonial from a friend. This continues for a while, until you get to the section on Harold and Kumar, made up of what you guess is supposed to be a funny depiction of predatory male heterosexuality, but which strikes you as simply mean-spirited and gross.

To shrug off the White Castle thing and keep reading, skip the next paragraph to Jump 2. To give up and listen to something completely different, read on.

“I’ve found it!” you cry, picking most of the iPhone glass out of your son’s pepperoni. (Don’t worry – the book automatically synced to the right spot on your iPad.)  “NPH’s fatal flaw! Like so many other men, he likes Harold and Kumar! Vowing that this involvement will never get you to watch either that film or anything by the Three Stooges, you slap some pizza crust into the oven and go surf Audible.com for a different book. You and Neil Patrick Harris are over. Unless he reads this and sends you tickets to see him in Hedwig along with a time machine pointing back to last summer.

Jump 2:
“Well,” you tell yourself, “that scene involving words usually reserved for male pornography didn’t work for me, but nobody’s perfect.” You then go on to hear about Doctor Horrible, How I Met Your Mother, award shows, and most endearingly, NPH’s stories of meeting the love of his life (David) and raising twins. All this is told with a warmth, humanity, and respect for both coworkers and his profession that you find pretty much entirely admirable, so that by the time you get to the rather skanky “in the voice of Barney, talking about female conquests” section, you’re able to stick those hard-to-peel pepperoni ends in your ears and forget it.

It’s 2 am. The homemade pizza that you’ve lovingly prepared for your son is ready, four hours after he’s gone to bed. You’ve folded laundry, cleaned the kitchen, tossed in a little Pilates, and dusted shelves and shelves of Playmobile figures your kids won’t let you give away. You’ve also reached the end of the autobiography: a description of NPH’s two-week long 40th birthday party, lovingly planned by his husband and friends, that makes you simultaneously want to kiss your family’s sleeping foreheads and wake them up and kick them. The party story is followed by a final note about kids and family in general that is so well constructed there’s not a dry eye in your head, primarily because there’s no doubt about the author’s sincerity.

Conclusion:
In the end, you don’t know whether Neil Patrick Harris is one of the nicest, most talented people on the face of the earth, or whether he’s hiding mortal flaws behind super-human intelligence. All you know is that the man writes almost as well as he sings.

This is what writers do…

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Aug 27, 2014 Comments are off

This is what writers do we’re supposed to be writing. Rewrite book blurbs, instead!

Speakeasy manager Clara Woodsen will do anything to save her silent film idol from an untimely death. Even summon a demon. Even bet she can teach his half-human/half-cheetah assistant to foxtrot. But people around town are acting strange. Have Clara’s efforts unleashed a zombie plague? Or are her customers just really bad at dancing the Charleston? And can a career-minded woman find happiness with the man of her dreams if she uses her…brains?

All Bernard Benjamin wants is a quiet life. At least as quiet as possible for a young college man possessing a golem housekeeper, five demon-summoning witches for cousins, and a dance partner who has not only two left feet but two right feet as well.

Bernie is used to being his cousin Clara’s stooge, but when the chips are down and push edges toward shove, he knows they’ll back each other one hundred percent. So why has Clara tied him up in a pentagram? And what’s she doing with that sharp, shiny knife…?

Goodbye Summer

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Aug 25, 2014 1920s, Clothing, Jewelry, Women's Fashion, Women's shoes , , , , Comments are off

August is the cruelest month. At least in Tucson. The air swelters, the roads flood, air-conditioners begin to give up the ghost, and a great miasma of humidity settles over the land hissing “You think you’ll escape! You think fall is coming!”

There are consolations, however. School’s in full swing, and there’s always the opportunity to wow the other moms with our 1920s  fashion choices.

Here’s a nice little back-to-school-night  number. The description says red, white, and black, but I think we’ll go with navy when we place our couture order with Lanvin.

1928 Evening Dress by Jeanne Lanvin silk taffeta and silk ribbon

Jeanne Lanvin 1928 (back view) via KCI Digital archives

 

Then there’s the question of how to accessorize. The Kyoto Costume Institute has snapped up the original of our dress, but we can pop onto the internet and purchase a necklace to pair with it, like this 1920s “Squash Blossom” available on 1stDibs for a meager $1,800.

1920s squash blossom necklace

1920s “Squash Blossom” Necklace with Liberty Quarters

Since that blows my budget for moms’ night out, I’ll resort to the virtual world again for shoes with these French lovelies – not too dressy to wear into the classroom.

red and ivory shoes Shoes, F. Pinet, Paris

Shoes, F. Pinet, Paris

There now. We may be dripping wet, crammed into those tiny seats in the classroom, but we’ll be sweating in style!

 

Riding the Toronto Subway

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Aug 24, 2014 Comments are off

I’m not a font geek. Sure, I dabble every once in a while…cruizing blogs, enjoying the sight of a well-turned serif. But I can quit any time I want to, right?

If I were a font geek (or had ever been to Toronto) I would have already known about the 1954 Toronto Subway font which I stumbled across on Kern Your Enthusiasm this morning.

 

Subway Tunnel - Probably not in Toronto

Subway Tunnel – Probably not in Toronto

 

They describe it better, but to me there’s something charmingly  innocent about this bold geometric font.  Perhaps a bit of a throwback to the typography of the 1920s.

Toronto Subway c1954

Toronto Subway c1954

 

Reading a bit farther, I see that observation is not mine alone, as the post refers to the similar font Gil Sans, from 1926.

Gil Sans c1926

Gil Sans c1926

Perhaps Harold Lloyd shares my intermittant enthusiasm for fonts. He certainly seems to be impressed by something — doubtless an impressively lettered sign — in his highly enjoyable 1928 film Speedy.

Harold Lloyd in Speedy - Probably not actually on the New York subway

Harold Lloyd in Speedy – Probably not actually on the New York subway

What’s the connection? Well, like these fonts, Harold Lloyd’s movie persona is innocent and maybe a little foolhardy. Seems to have been a really nice guy in real life, too. And it’s entirely possible that, at some time in his life, he visited Toronto.

 

 

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