Sunday, November 29, 2020

The Writing Experience

 Romance has long been one of my favorite genres and when you throw in a good suspense element, I have to admit I am always hooked!  That was what immediately grabbed by attention when I discovered the work of author Mike Owens.  He is my guest today in My Writing Corner

Welcome, Mike, please tell us about your road to publication.

Ah, yes, the bumpy road to publication. Years ago I was swapping notes at a writers’ conference with another attendee. I mentioned that I had just finished my first novel. “Congratulations,” he said. “You’ve finished the easy part.” I had no idea what he meant because, as a novice writer, I knew nothing about the process of submissions, queries, rejections, etc. No problem, I thought since for certain the world was waiting eagerly for my masterpiece. Yeah, right. Needless to say, the learning curve from there on was almost vertical. One lesson I acquired from this process was the value of a good critique group. I was very fortunate in joining a great group that never held back on “friendly fire.” We stayed together for years, and without that group, and others that I’ve joined since, the road to publication would probably have been a dead end.

What  do you like best about being a writer?

The thing that keeps me coming back to my desk is the joy of finding out what happens next. I don’t outline my stories ahead of time (sometimes I wish I did) for the simple reason that, aside from the opening gambit, I don’t know where the story will go. In other words, what happens next? How will the characters develop? After a bit they take on a life of their own, make some of their decisions without any help from me.

What are some of the challenges of being a writer?

 I’d guess that most writers, if given a wish-list, would put time and a quiet space somewhere near the top of the list, but this is probably a luxury most don’t have. I can’t imagine how a single mom with small kids can squeeze in time for writing, but many do. The need for a quiet space is one of personal preference. I think the anecdote I’m searching for was one about Flaubert who was asked by a friend to let her sit in the room while he was writing, no noise, no questions, no moving about, just quietly sitting. After a short time he asked her to leave. Even the presence of another person, quiet as she was, disturbed him. That said, writers abound in Starbucks and other coffee shops, preferring to write in the presence of others. Take your choice.

How do you come up with your characters?

 I think most of my characters come from my life experience, people I’ve known or wish I had. That said, most of mine are composites of different characteristics drawn from different sources (people).

How do you come up with your plots?

Someone said that, by the time you’ve reached the age of six, you’ve accumulated enough experiences to write about forever. Unfortunately, my own early years were not quite that exciting, but still, plot ideas are all around. Just look for them. For me, plots start with a single idea, a “What if?” question. From there on, it’s a matter of sitting at the desk every day and typing out whatever the little gremlin from the basement sends up to me. I’ll avoid the debate between outlining and flying by the seat of one’s pants, being a diehard pantser myself…personal preference.

Tell us about your latest book. What made you write it?

Bernie & Bertie (Serial Killers Need Love Too)
is a rather dark, slightly twisted romantic comedy and just received a 4-Star review from InD’tale mag., Nov 2020. Bernie, the central character appeared in a short work that I submitted for a class assignment some years ago. For several years his story, along with many others, stayed in a box in my closet until I decided to spend some time with him. I wanted to see if I could pull off a story that was full of cliches, and Bernie seemed the perfect place to start. In fact, the opening line from the story begins, “It was a dark and stormy night…” I knew early on that Bernie had a homicidal trigger that would be any of the cliches from the 60s, but I didn’t know he would be so successful at it. The story really comes to life (for me, at least) when Bernie meets his doppleganger, Bertie, his mirror image in all but gender. She wasn’t present in the original story and appeared without any particular planning on my part. I love it when characters do that.

Let's get a blurb:

They looked alike, dressed alike, shared the same food preferences, finished one another's sentences. What were the chances that in a world where opposites attract and likes repel, two people so similar in every way, including their successful careers as serial killers would meet, fall in love and form one of the deadliest duos ever? Bernie and Bertie did just that, and this is their story.

What advice do you have for beginning writers?

Conventional wisdom has the writer sitting at his/her desk each day at the same time, same place. That way, your muse knows exactly where and when to find you. Perhaps your muse doesn’t have much material for you on any given day, but you won’t find that out unless you’re there to receive it. On the other hand, maybe muse has brought you a treasure trove of new insights, new information, stuff to kick your story into a higher gear, and you really want to be there for it, fingers poised above the keyboard, etc..I will pass along what I consider to be the most valuable bit of advice I’ve ever received, and that is to work on your project every day. Whether it’s pages, paragraphs or just a few words, the important thing is to keep the project alive in your own mind, and that requires daily attention.

 What is your next project?

My current project is a story set in two time periods fifty years apart. The characters are interrelated. Part of it is set in a textile mill town in North Carolina. I grew up in NC but had no idea of the number of textile mills in the state, over 200 in the 1800s and 1900s. Part of it is about a family that works in the mill and the other about the family that owns the mill. There are twin brothers, both mill workers and both in love with the mill owner’s daughter. Obviously, an unworkable situation. All my other stories have been linear, so this format switching back and forth in time is proving to be a challenge. I can only hope that the end product will be less confusing for the reader than it has been for this writer.

Thank you for telling us about your writing process and introducing us to your work, Mike. If anyone would like to read more about Mike's books or order them, here are the links:

And here is his contact information if you would like to get in touch with him:

Thank you, Mike, for being my guest today.  Any questions or comments for Mike?

Monday, November 23, 2020

An Arresting New Book & Hero

November has always been one of my favorite months  as a writer. This is a good time to stay inside and read or write and relax before the hectic holiday season. The opportunity is even greater this year because we are spending so much time inside. That has me on the search for new and different writers and more interesting books to read. When they have a Colorado connection, well, that always gets my attention, and I want to know more. 

 The guest today in My Writing Corner is author Amber Daulton, whose newest book, Arresting Jeremiah has just been released.

Amber is the author of is the author of a romantic-suspense series -- Arresting Onyx as well as several standalone novellas. Her books are published through The Wild Rose Press, Books to Go Now, and Daulton Publishing, and are available in ebook, print on demand, audio, and foreign language formats. She tells us she lives in North Carolina with her husband and demanding cats. 

Let's get more on that newest book, Arresting Jeremiah,

Injured Parole Officer Jeremiah "Jim" Borden never expected Calista Barlow, the sassy blonde waitress he’s craved for months, to ring his doorbell. She slips into his heart—and his bed—but he’s obsessed with a gangland investigation that threatens his career and maybe even his life.

Calista doesn’t trust easily, not with a daughter to protect and the stalker who keeps calling her. After

her violent ex-boyfriend returns, she finds solace in Jim’s arms.

Jim may have to forego his need for answers to protect the ready-made family he adores, but how will he and Calista escape an unseen enemy that is always one step ahead of them? 

Doesn't Jeremiah sound like a great character you want to know more about?  Let's talk to him!

What is your occupation? Are you any good at it? Do you like it?

 I’m a parole officer in the city of Denver, Colorado, and I travel all throughout the tri-county area to visit my paroles. I have the highest rehabilitation rate for the officers in my district, but it’s no easy accomplishment. I don’t have much of a life outside of work. After some crap that happened a short while back, I’m no longer content with my job. Someone I work with betrayed me to the most powerful crime lord in the city. How can I keep working there when I don’t know who to trust?

What conflicts are you facing?

 One of my parolees has rejoined his old gang and is now slinging drugs again. He’s gone missing while I’m on suspension from the office, so I can’t help the police in trying to find him. Of course, that doesn’t stop him from targeting me, Calista, and her daughter. On top of that, Calista’s violent ex-boyfriend is back and someone else is stalking her. Then there’s the mole in my office and the mysterious drug lord who promised to keep an eye on me. So yeah, I have five assholes to deal with. My life is just perfect.

 What did you think or do the first time you saw Calista?

 I’ve known Calista for about a year before our story begins. I was meeting one of my paroles at the greasy diner where she worked, which I hadn’t been to in years. I was struck dumb the first time I saw her. She was hustling about, taking orders and grinning at customers. Her blonde hair was up in a ponytail, and her mile-long legs were drawing my undivided attention. Then she came to my table and did the usual waitress bit—a greeting, introduction, offer of drinks. I barely heard her. I kept saying “Wow.” over and over again in my head like a broken record.

Then my parolee started flirting with her.

Oh, hell no. My temper jumped to the red-zone. It didn’t make sense—my possessive response and sudden need of her—but I still growled at the man, and he literally flinched. Calista cocked her eyebrow at me in what I later learned is a distinctive no-bullshit pose for her (kind of like her saying, “Seriously? You’re growling like a he-man?”).

Anyway, from that moment on, I rearranged my work schedule to eat at the diner a few times a week. I had to see her; I couldn’t not be around her. After a while, we became friends of a sort and flirted like crazy, but neither of us ever made a move.

 What is your family like?

 I don’t have much of a family. My parents died two years ago in a car crash, so it’s just me and my sister, Mia. She’s dating this hothead, Mason, and expects Mase and me to hang out together like we’re best buds. Not happening. He used to be one of my parolees, believe it or not. I flipped my shit when they first got together (read their story, Arresting Mason, and you’ll know how badly I acted), but I’ve gotten used to their relationship. Hell, I just want Mia to be happy.

 What is the best piece of advice you ever received?

 It’s from my dad—“Stop worrying about the ‘worse-case scenario.’ Live your life, son. You only get one.”

He was right, but it took me a while to admit it.

For years I shunned commitment. Starting a real relationship with a woman wasn’t in the cards for me, which is why I never acted on my feelings for Calista until she made the first move. It’s bad enough when my gangbanger or junkie parolees are shooting at me; I sure as hell never wanted them pulling that shit with someone I love.

 Why do you think your author chose to write about you?

 After she wrote Mia and Mason’s book, she saw how angry and frustrated I was. She wanted to give me a happy ending. Unfortunately, she has a thing for damaged, tortured heroes, so she put me through hell before slapping a big red bow on my life. I really should have a talk with her about that. What kind of crazy woman makes a man fight when he’s already covered in bruises and has a broken arm? Just not right.

What other character from your book do you think your author should write a book about? Care to tell us why?

Amber has ideas for more stories, but most of those heroes and heroines weren’t featured in my book. There is a minor character, however—I won’t say who—that she’s pairing with a minor character from book one. It’s going to be a novella, book 2.5, currently titled Ryan’s Temptation. She’s hoping to publish it sometime in the fall of 2021.

 Want more information? Here are the buy links;

Add to Goodreads –

Check it out on BookBub

Purchase Links

Amazon –

Barnes and Noble –

Apple –

Kobo –

Google Play –

Universal link –

And if you would like to know more about Amber and her work, here is her social media   contact information 

Website –

Facebook Author Page –

Twitter –

Street Team –

Pinterest –

Goodreads –

Amazon Author Page –

Book Bub –

Instagram –

LinkedIn –

YouTube –

The Wild Rose Press –

Any questions for Amber?   

Thank you, Amber, for being my guest today and introducing a wonderful new hero!

Monday, November 16, 2020

The joy of Brainstorming

 Every so often I teach classes on how to pitch books to editors and agents and I’m also working on a new book on pitching. Among the questions that always come up are how do you know when you have just the right pitch and how do you even get started with a pitch?  Unfortunately, there are no easy answers – most pitch opportunities will be different and your books will be different too. You can always find a better way to say something and different people hear things differently and take different meanings from things.

But the one thing that I do know works for pitches or even for getting started on any book is brainstorming. Recently, I have been working on finishing edits on a book as well as working ideas for a new story with several friends. What is the best way to get things started? Well, ideas, of course, but how do you come up with them? There’s a simple answer whether you’re pitching or starting a new book.  The key is brainstorming! 

 Years ago, when I worked as a TV news producer, I worked alongside several other producers. We all had our various programs that went on the air at 4, 5 and 6, and we usually had different stories we wanted to tease or “pitch” during our newscasts.

One of the things I learned over the years was that we all had our strengths and challenges, and we all wrote our teases to the next segments in different ways.  Those teases were actually very much like the blurbs I often teach in my pitching classes. Just like pitches are for promoting or selling a book, those teases were aimed at getting viewers to stay tuned for the next segment of the news program.  We were all arranged in a row 4pm, 5pm and 6pm producers and one of the things we all did every day was to test our teases on each other.  We all knew the stories so  we sort of competed to see  who wrote the best one. We also tested our individual teases about stories the others didn’t have to see if they sounded interesting.  We often found the other person might not understand exactly what we were trying to get across and we might then re-write our tease to be more accurate or more understandable.

 I often recommend writers do that with their pitches, especially if you’re preparing to meet with one at a convention or if you’re looking to write a query letter. Write out your pitch and then test it on those around you, or your friends, your loved ones, your writing buddies, your critique partners. . After all, this is something you will be sending out to total strangers. If your friends have questions, consider what the interest or the questions of those other strangers might be. Or eventually you might be writing that in the blurb that goes on your book or online at Amazon.  Are you saying what needs to be said? Are  you attracting interest?

But there are more cases to be considered. Are you being too vague?  But that isn’t necessarily a bad
thing. Vague in some cases is good.  What you’re looking for is for them to say, “Yes, I want to read that,” or “I want to publish that.”

That is the bottom line for the pitch or blurb you develop.  If you leave a few questions that make them want to read the book, fine! That is the point.  If you leave them confused so that they are uncertain about what is in your book, then you need to go back to the drawing board. You want your pitch to sell your book.

Brainstorming can be useful when you get stuck in the middle of the book too. Why not try a wine party and let everyone come up with some ideas for where to go next in the story? Input doesn’t need to be followed, but it might get you out of a rut and into a new direction that allows you to move forward.

The writing process can be a quiet, lonely time, but getting those around you interested in your book can also lead to suggestions that can help you.  Just don’t feel obligated to do whatever anyone says and let them know that too. Trying to please one person may be a big mistake. You know what your readers are expecting from your work, or if you are a new author, pay attention to what draws readers and what they say in their reviews.

The more you learn about your story whether coming from others or from inside yourself can only make the story better.  I often set my stores Currently I am working on a book set in southern Colorado. Whenever I need brainstorming help, I check in with my brother and sister who can bring me back memories of the old days and the countryside we remember from t he past. 

Now I know that some of you may feel awkward about sharing your pitches or ideas with those around you, but keep in mind when you pitch, you will be giving that pitch to and when your book is on the shelves or at Amazon, you are selling that book total strangers.  Don’t be afraid to test your pitch, and it’s easiest to start with people you know.  When we were writing teases for our news programs, we would  be constantly changing things until the words came out of the anchor’s mouth and were heard by millions. Until then, even the anchor might change something.  For you, until it is set in print perhaps as a blurb on your book or a description on a website, you can still re-work and fix and polish the pitch.  Don’t be afraid to experiment and polish.  That can only make your work better.

My only caution is that you don’t want to lose the meaning of the book.  Remember, the story is at the bottom of everything and selling that story is what we want to achieve. Listen to suggestions, but don’t let someone else force a change on you that won’t work for the story. A pitch that sounds great won’t result in a sale if the story is not as promised. The story is still the bottom line.

Follow me at Facebook, on Twitter and see my books at Amazon. 


Sunday, November 8, 2020

A Visit to the Old West

 Having grown up and lived in the West all my life, I have always been drawn to stories, books and movies set any place in the West. My dad and mom loved Western movies and stories so that was what I grew up watching and reading. It's still the part of the country where I set my own romance and mystery stories. That was part of what drew me to the books of author Mike Torreano.   He is the guest today in My Writing Corner. I always enjoy hearing authors' stories of how they come to be published and his story really hit home, especially since his latest book has just been released.

Welcome, Mike. what do you think are some of the challenges of being a writer?

We all have to work at our craft, that’s a common condition, but I find that marketing and social media are my biggest challenges. Stories seem to generally reveal themselves, whether that happens today or ‘tomorrow’. Marketing, as for many of us, is the toughest part for me.

Tell us about your road to publication.

Curiously enough, a rejection led to my first contract. Years ago, I received an email from my future editor who sent me the nicest rejection I’ve ever gotten. Personalized, and helpful, so about eight months later, I emailed her again with an outline of my new WIP, and thanked her for her previous spot-on feedback. She said she remembered me (don’t know if she did or not) and asked me to send my manuscript, ‘WHEN IT’S READY’.

I sent this new story in when it was well-polished and got my first ‘Congratulations!’ email back soon thereafter. Funny how a ‘no’ can become a ‘yes’.

How do you come up with your characters?

I think you have to have read a LOT in your genre, and/or be a keen student of human nature. We all write what we know, and so my characters are an honest amalgam of my reading, as well as a reflection of people I’ve come into contact with over the years.

How do you come up with plots?

I’m a ‘pantser’ rather than a ‘plotter, but pantsers still have to have a vague idea of what the story might be about, right? For me, the plot always comes to life itself over time, so what I concentrate on the most is crafting tension on every page. Tension is what pulls readers in my genre in the most. I believe that holds true for all genres, whether it’s the subtler tension of a literary work, or the overt action of a western. I try to reflect that everywhere-in my characters, their dialogue, internals, and even description. Find consistent ways to do that and you’ll have a faithful readership. Beyond tension, I work to create a second level of emotion everywhere, micro-tension, as Donald Maas calls it.

Tell us about your latest book.  What made you write it?

A Score to Settle is set on a cattle drive on the Goodnight-Loving trail in New Mexico Territory, 1870. Some of the events in the iconic western, Lonesome Dove, by Larry McMurtry, mirrored happenings on an 1867 drive on G-L. As I read more about Charles Goodnight and Owen Loving, that’s when I decided to site my story on their trail. Throw in the bedlam of a cattle drive, strong women and good men, killers after stolen gold, and a white-hot desire for revenge and the story pretty much wrote itself. 

Here's the blurb and it certainly drew me in!

Broken after his family is murdered, rancher Del Lawson signs on to a cattle drive along the Goodnight Loving trail in 1870—unaware he's still in danger. When he falls for a pretty Army nurse, the killers target her.

If he's to recover from his grief and build a new life, Del must set out on a gritty hunt for the men who are hunting him.

Meanwhile, Del's mother, Maybelle, doesn't know her son survived that murderous night. When she discovers the gold the killers are after, she uses the treasure in an elaborate masquerade to try to take the murderers down.

Will mother and son's plans reap justice—or destroy what's left of the Lawson clan?

Sounds like a wonderful read! What advice do you have for beginning writers?

DON’T waiting to start writing until you have the story all worked out in your head or on your storyboard. Take your hazy idea and start running with it. Often you’ll be happily surprised where you end up. Enjoy the ride!

What’s your next project? 

A friend brought me an idea that launched my initial research into White Sands Gold. The plot happens to involve an historical mystery that’s never been solved, which intrigued me. As I started writing, I decided I didn’t really have to solve this real-life mystery, I’d just create interesting characters struggling with the puzzle and see where they took things. The mystery still hangs nicely throughout the story as an historical backdrop, and the characters are sweeping the story along with them. I’m looking forward to seeing how things turn out (said the pantser).

I think I've heard of that mystery! Good luck with the story, and thank you for being my guest.

Here is the information if you want to know more about Mike and his books.

Buy Links

Monday, November 2, 2020

Autumn Romance in Vermont

 Isn't it fun to get hooked on a series of stories either set in a familiar place or that follow one another? I have to admit I have done that for years so I was excited when The Wild Rose Press began to publish a series of books set at the fictional location of the Deerbourne Inn in Vermont. I've featured a number of authors in the series, and Maria Imbalzano who has a Deerbourne story is my guest today. 

What would you say are some challenges of being a writer? 
My current challenge is coming up with big-story plot points that are fresh. Most of the books I have written (all contemporary romance) have twists and turns and are emotion-packed. I am working on the third book in my Sworn Sisters series (Sworn to Fly) and I’m questioning whether it lives up to the surprises that readers encountered in the first two books. I need to dig deeper before I let that book go.  

Tell us about your road to publication.

It was meandering and slow-going. I decided I wanted to write a novel in 1998, but had no idea how to do that. I was a psychology major in undergraduate school, and then went to law school. At that time, I was sailing along in my career as a divorce lawyer, was married,  and had two young children. While I loved legal writing, which is analytical and linear, I was not a fan of creative writing. But reading was my favorite pastime, and romance my favorite genre. I took a seminar called How to Write a Book in Fourteen Days- a Lawyer’s Guide (a very catchy title – no?) and followed the advice given. I sat down and plotted out my book, scene by scene, chapter by chapter. It was more of a blueprint then an outline. Then I wrote the book – with no knowledge of point of view, character arcs, conflicts, black moments etc. Of course, it was rejected, but I started to learn the craft of writing fiction through New Jersey Romance Writers and RWA. I wrote four books before I got published – fifteen years after I decided I wanted to write a novel. Persistance is key.   


What do you like best about being a writer?

I love creating new characters, new plot lines, and torturing the hero and heroine on their journey to find true love. It’s so much fun to get lost in my character’s heads as they figure out their next moves.

How do you come up with your characters?  That depends on the book. The women of the Sworn Sisters Series are best friends since high school and they are loosely based on my best friends from high school.  Some of my characters are lawyers (the heroines of “Unchained Memories,” “Dancing In The Sand,” and “Sworn to Remember.” Being a lawyer and working with lawyers makes it easy to create these characters. I then deepen the characters while working through the plot. If my heroine is a lawyer, the hero is going to be someone who is opposed to what she does.  In “Unchained Memories,” the hero is an ER doctor and the heroine a medical malpractice lawyer, which pits the two of them against each other from the very beginning. I want my characters to be in conflict from the start.

How do you come up with plots?

 Once I decide on my main characters, then its easier to come up with plots that will put them in conflict. For example, in “Dancing In The Sand,” the heroine is an environmental lawyer and the hero works in his father’s company which does fracking, causing major damage to water systems. The hero hires the law firm, where the heroine works, to represent his father’s company even though the firm usually represents the party suing company’s like his. That’s the subplot. The major plot has to do with the two of them having been together ten years earlier at a college graduation party, but the hero doesn’t remember the heroine. That plot came from a dream.

What advice do you have for beginning writers?  

Try to write every day, or as often as possible. I know how hard that is when you’re working full-time and have a family, but you will only get better while doing. Also take seminars and read books on the craft of writing. That way you can apply what you are learning to your work in progress. Once you have a draft of a manuscript going, join a critique group with two or three other writers who are at a stage a little further than you are. Getting knowledgeable feedback is key. And don’t give up!

Tell us about your latest book. What made you write it?  

“A Song For Another Day” is part of the Deerbourne Inn Series put out by The Wild Rose Press. I chose a character who had already been identified and lives in Willow Springs, Vermont, working as a shuttle driver for the Deerbourne Inn. His name is Jason Simmons and he also sings and plays guitar at the local bar.  I had wanted to write a story about a songwriter, because I’m in awe of them. So I developed Jason to be not only a singer and guitar player, but a songwriter trying to break into the Nashville music scene. The problem is that he has stage fright, and he blew his chance two years earlier when he walked off the stage. Jason is a quiet, reserved guy who likes small town life. Enter Gigi, an up and coming Broadway star who loves the limelight.  She’s only in Willow Springs for six weeks to direct their first Community Revue while waiting to hear about her audition for a part in the touring company of CATS. Jason and Gigi are very different people but their paths collide and sparks fly. Unfortunately, their stars are rising in different directions:  

Gigi Jenson, an up-and-coming Broadway star, finds herself in Willow Springs, Vermont, for the summer as director of their first annual community revue. This sleepy town is worlds away from her vibrant and beloved New York City, but the experience she’ll gain will be invaluable to her career.

Jason Simmons has lived in Willow Springs his entire life. Working several jobs while writing music, he yearns for a contract to record his songs. The one chance he had to make it in Nashville he blew due to stage fright.

When Jason volunteers to help Gigi with the revue, sparks ignite but their dreams are taking them in different directions. Will their love for each other ever guide them to the same path? 

Sounds like a wonderful romance! What is your next project? 

  After I finalize “Sworn to Fly”, I have one more book in the Sworn Sisters Series which I must finish and edit. I also sent a proposal to my publisher for a novella in the Wylder West Series.  I’m waiting to hear if it’s a go. In the meantime, I have decided to narrate my own books, since hiring a narrator is very costly. I took a few seminars, purchased the equipment, (which was a lot less expensive than I thought it would be) and I’m learning how to work the software program. It’s a huge undertaking, but it’s fun and different.

Here are the buy links for Maria's newest book

Print Books


Barnes and Noble



Google Play





How can readers get in touch with you?

Facebook –

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 Instagram - mariaimbal

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 Goodreads Author Page

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  Amazon Author Page

The Wild Rose Press Blog Interview May 2020

Thank you, Maria, for being my guest today and taking us back again to that wonderful spot, Deerbourne Inn! Any comments or questions for Maria?

Mysterious Doings

As the  summer begins, it is time to start selecting those books we want to take on vacation or for sitting around the pool or at  the beach...