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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Holiday Etiquette: Holiday Tipping and Gifting

This one gets me, I admit. Should you tip more at the holidays? Who gets a tip/gift? Is it necessary? At the end of the second page (Holiday Tipping is Really Holiday Thanking) there's an extensive chart on who to tip and what. They really put a lot of thought into this, and I, personally, appreciate it!

Holiday Tip vs. Holiday Gift

The holiday season is a budget stretching season for many. Between your gift list, holiday tips, parties, dinners out and  traveling, it's easy for expenses to quickly add up. One question we've often been asked is: What's the difference between a tip and a gift?

It can easily get confusing and it's important to make a distinction about whether you're giving someone a gift or a tip. Why? Professionals shouldn't be tipped--and doing so could be perceived as inappropriate. For example, a cash tip to your child's teacher or a government employee such as a postal worker is (in most cases) a prohibited practice. Gifts of small monetary value, however, are fine. 

Tipping is an end-of-year cash gratuity to a service provider such as your doorman, hairdresser, newspaper delivery person, baby sitter  or dog groomer, to thank them for their consistent and outstanding service.

Why does this get so confusing? One reason may be that you can give a gift instead of or in addition to a tip, a helpful tactic if you're strapped for cash. For more on this topic,
check out our tipping chart, complete with monetary recommendations here.

Gifting: A thoughtful present to recognize and show appreciation for family, friends, co-workers and other people in our lives.

We've received many questions about whether to tip or give a gift to teachers and health care professionals. These professionals fall into the gift category. Here's why:
It's wonderful for a child to want to give a gift to his or her teacher. It's also lovely for a parent to recognize a teacher's hard work. Books, gift certificates to office supply stores or other thoughtful items are welcome. Teachers are salaried professionals - a cash tip is not appropriate as it could be seen as "currying favor." Use this opportunity to teach  your child the basics of gift-giving etiquette, such as how to select a gift that someone would like and how to present it to the person.
Nurses or Health Care Professionals:
Cash gifts may be prohibited. Check with each institution's policy before giving a gift to a medical professional. At some non-profit institutions, a donation may be made in honor of a nurse or other employee. Health care professionals have told us they do welcome gifts such as platters of food or cookies that can be shared with staff. Gift cards, if allowed, are a great option too. Good choices include gift cards for the hospital coffee shop or area restaurants. If you select a gift for an individual, choose one that is meaningful to you and always accompany it with a hand-written note of thanks. 
Remember: Gifts and tips at the holidays, are optional (unless part of a written contract) and depend on your budget and relationship to the provider. Holiday tips don't replace consistent kindness and expressed gratitude throughout the year.

Holiday Tipping Is Really Holiday Thanking

The holiday season is traditionally the time Americans choose to thank those who provide them with year-round services. In these tough economic times it’s important to remember that holiday tipping is truly about saying thank you. With a little creativity you can accommodate everyone on your list this year without blowing your budget.

Here are some things to consider when you're deciding how to thank people, who you will spend money on, and how much you will spend:

  • Your budget: First and foremost, you shouldn’t feel obligated to go beyond your personal budget.
  • If your budget does not allow for tips, consider homemade gifts; and if you’re not good with crafts or in the kitchen, remember that words are always a great way to express your thanks for a year of good service.
  • Any gift or tip should always be accompanied by a short handwritten note of appreciation. (Two or three sentences will be enough.)
  • Do you already tip regularly? If you tip at the time of service, you may forego an end of the year tip, or give a more modest holiday thank you. You may also choose to give a small gift instead.
  • The quality and frequency of the service you receive.
  • Your relationship with the service provider.
  • Location: Tipping averages tend to be higher in larger cities.
  • Length of service: The number of years you’ve been using the service.
  • Regional customs.
  • Type of establishment: Is it deluxe or moderate?
  • When in doubt, ask: Call the front desk and ask what is 1) accepted by the company, and 2) typical for what they see from other customers.
  • Common sense, specific circumstances and holiday spirit should always be your guide.
  • Don’t buy into the thought that if you don’t tip you won’t get good service for the coming year. If you think you've had bad service for this reason, you might want to consider changing companies or speaking directly with a manager. 

#Interview with @SusieCWarren for Ruthless Perfection

Susie Warren writes contemporary romance. Besides being an avid reader, she spends much of her free time crafting intense and complex stories about falling in love. When she is not writing, Susie works as an administrator in a small, independent school while caring for three teenagers and keeping tabs on her inventor husband. With the launching of her first book, The Forgotten Heiress, she has slowly begun to navigate the social media realm.

Susie loves to hear from readers and responds to each email and Facebook post. Please reach out to her via Facebook or Twitter.

For more information on her upcoming releases, new excerpts and other related postings, or to sign up for free promotions, please visit

What is your story's heat level? How do you approach the sex scenes?
I think it is somewhere in the middle between a sweet romance and an erotic romance. It is reflective of a couple beginning to date in their late twenties or early thirties.  My characters are not having sex on their first encounter but they are also not waiting for marriage.

I’m getting more comfortable writing sex scenes. I approach the intimate details of their physical relationship with the idea that I want to give readers enough information to understand a deepening of the relationship without pulling readers out of the story.

How do you maintain activity as a writer when sitting at a desk all day?
I’m plagued by a weak lower back so I take Pilates classes and purchased a fabulous pedometer on Amazon. The link is on my twitter page if you are interested. Basically, I push myself to walk 10,000 steps by the end of the day. Other friends, who are not writers, have purchased it and found out that they walk 7,000 steps a day without trying. Not me. I walk about 700 steps unless I get on the treadmill or go for a walk.
What is it that you loved about the main characters in your story?
I loved that they kept putting themselves out there even when they were scared. Fear is a difficult thing but most people when challenged to confront their fear, will tell you that it was the best thing that they ever did. I hope to keep writing about characters that will push past their fear and find their happy ending.
What do you feel is your strongest type of writing? Humor? Angst? Confrontation scenes? Action? Sex? Sensuality? Sweet Romance? And why?
I’m interested in exciting plots and good dialog. I have a tendency to write the first draft in all dialog then have to go back and add in narrative. I have to remind myself to not limit conflict but to use it to push the story forward. I’m becoming more comfortable with writing sex scenes. Recently my editor said she felt the heat coming off the pages. I had to remind myself that this was a good thing.

Are you social media savvy? If so what do you suggest for others? If not, why not?
I’m getting there. I was a little reluctant to share too much at first but I’m beginning to find the balance between sharing interesting or insightful comments and boring readers. I would suggest listening to yourself and make sure that whatever you post, it feels helpful and informative and not just a pet peeve or rant.

What are some things from your life or things you have observed that you've infused into your stories?
Family dynamics. I come from a large family and I think that can shape who your characters become. As a parent, I’m always fascinated by the conscious and unconscious messages that parents pass onto their children.

If you had an unlimited budget, where would you like to visit for story-related research?
I’d love to go to Bora Bora. The images are stunning and it must be incredibly relaxing.

Any fun facts about the research for your book?
  • I wrote the opening scene after traveling to Martha’s Vineyard. It’s a beautiful, remote place and I could easily imagine a reclusive, well-known business owner seeking anonymity there.
  • I liked all the imagery around the marble. It is such a tangible, solid and beautiful element in the novel. By setting some of the novel in Carrara, there was the historical backdrop of the marble industry. There is inherent risk in dealing with marble and whoever worked in the industry had to be somewhat fearless and a risk-taker.  I used these traits when imaging the hero and heroine that would inhabit this setting.

Finally, tell us a little about your newest release!

The second novel in this series, The Exiled Jeweler, is coming out in December. It tells the story of Isabel Neri’s cousin, Emilia Berceto. She is a shy heiress to a jewelry empire and captures the attention of a celebrated business entrepreneur when she attends a gala at his mansion in Los Angeles. Images secretly captured of her partially nude are released to the tabloids and her overly protective family sends her far away.


She took the glass of cabernet sauvignon he offered her and tried to dispel the growing attraction she felt for him. She reminded herself he was just a man. A man who prized perfection over everything else.

“To your film.”

Taking a sip, Isabel noticed he held her gaze and she felt her heart skip a beat. She needed the project and reminded herself not to be charmed by him. He would be repulsed by her body if she ever let him get too close.

Isabel placed the wine glass on the table.

“I don’t know why you invited me here.”

Marc shrugged his powerful shoulders. He had removed his suit jacket and tie and looked less intimidating in a white button-down dress shirt and gray trousers.

“I’d like to get to know you better before we leave for Carrara.”

Isabel turned away from him. She felt underdressed in her white, button-down shirt and jeans. She had dressed for a long day of filming, not dinner with a perfection-seeking industrialist.

She glanced back at him and said, “There isn’t much to know. I’m a filmmaker from Boston.”

Marc took another sip of wine and his gaze seared into her. She felt her skin warm and resisted moving away from him. She was completely covered but suddenly felt exposed. Why did he have this effect on her? She normally held men at a distance, but she could feel herself being drawn to him.

“You hide yourself behind your beauty. You reveal almost nothing about yourself yet expect others to reveal everything.”

Susie will be awarding a $50 Amazon gift card to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.


Monday, December 15, 2014

Interview with Lucy Carey for Two Alone in Dublin

Lucy Carey, Lesbian and Bisexual Romance and Erotic-Fiction Writer

I am a 30-year-old bisexual author who writes the kind of fiction I think other LGBTQ women want to read.

As someone born and raised in Ireland, let me assure you: our country is beautiful…and so are its women.

I aim to introduce you to the best of both—the stunning scenery of the Emerald Isle and its funny, complex, gorgeous, lesbian and bisexual women. I hope you enjoy it.

What is your story's heat level? How do you approach the sex scenes?
On a scale of one to five, it’s probably a two. It gets a little hot and heavy at the end, past the PG13 stuff, but it’s not a sex-fest either! There’s only one sex scene in the story but it makes sense to the story.

As to the sex scenes, I approach them very cautiously. I know if I blush a little when I’m writing or rereading them, that I’ve got them right. That’s a litmus test that might be unique to me!

How do you maintain activity as a writer when sitting at a desk all day?
That can be tough. Turning off the internet helps—it is the biggest time-sucker in the world. I actually crave a typewriter again; I’d write epics if I had one. I get up regularly and take a walk around but not enough that I forget the way back to my computer!

What is it that you loved about the main characters in your story?
I loved that they were real women and true-to-life lesbians; it was very important to me that they—and their loneliness—felt realistic and recognizable to readers. I think for a “happy ever after” to mean anything, you have to have the characters face believable issues.

What do you feel is your strongest type of writing? Humor? Angst? Confrontation scenes? Action? Sex? Sensuality? Sweet Romance? And why?
I do angst a bit too well sometimes… Humor I also enjoy. I think they’re the parts that I’m best at and which read the most naturally when I write them. I’m a little bit Ancient Greek that way—I’m drawn to both tragedy and comedy!

Are you social media savvy? If so what do you suggest for others? If not, why not?
Yes and no, to be honest. I am in that I understand social media quite well; I get its benefits, I know how to use Twitter and Facebook etc., and I can see how it would be very useful for many authors.

But for me, at present, I don’t have the time to devote to doing it properly so I’m a bit sporadic with what and when I post, even on my non-author accounts. I’m also quite introverted when it comes to the internet and I’m very slow to put my life out there. For those reasons, I’m not the best at social media at the moment. I’m working on getting better at it though.

What are some things from your life or things you have observed that you've infused into your stories?
I think human nature is what I’ve observed most keenly and that comes across in my stories. I actually find it quite difficult to plot sometimes—it can take a while for me to make a story come together—but I never have a problem with figuring out what makes my characters tick. I spent a lot of time in my childhood observing people and wondering about what made people do what they did so I hope that’s been time well spent!

If you had an unlimited budget, where would you like to visit for story-related research?
Ooh, that’s like letting a kid into a candy shop! Can I cheat a little and say somewhere in the tropics? I’m sure I’d do a lot of great work on vacation…If that’s not allowed, I would love to enter a world I’ve never been—a court or a ranch or a cruise ship or something like that that’s completely alien to me—to inspire some new stories.

Any fun facts about the research for your book?
I have passed the "Crann an Oir (Tree of Gold)" sculpture (which Mariana sits beside in one scene) hundreds of times, but until I wrote the book, I always just thought of it as “the big gold lollipop”! (Google a picture—you’ll see why.) I researched it and discovered it was erected in 1991 by an Irish artist called Éamonn O'Doherty. I also learned that it was actually made of bronze, which disappointed me for some ridiculous reason!

Finally, tell us a little about your newest release!

It called “Two Alone in Dublin: A Lesbian Love Story” and it’s a story about an Irish college student, Susie, and a Brazilian coffee barista, Mariana, who are each relatively new to Dublin. They’re both lonely and under their own individual stresses and have almost given up hope of meeting someone. Then they bump into each other one cold morning in Dublin…


Mariana hadn’t worn this shade of lipstick in an age. She painted the brash, bright-red gloss around her full lips, rubbed her lips together and pouted. This was her going-out colour, a colour guaranteed to make her feel sexy and confident and womanly.

Had it really been so long since she had been on a date? she wondered. Despite this being her go-to colour for dates, it had been buried in the bottom of her makeup bag.

She checked her teeth for lipstick and, finding none, stepped back to look at her full reflection in the mirror.

She had chosen a form-fitting dress in a colour to match the shade of her lipstick and she adjusted the cups of her bra, to push her cleavage higher in its V-neck.

This, she thought to herself, must be what Susie had described as “putting your best foot forward.”

Lucy will be awarding a $25 Amazon or B/N GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour