Friday, March 31, 2006


Few words can thrill a writer more. Those two single syllable words can bring on waves of relief, ripples of excitement and for those who are hesitant to submit to an editor – pangs of nausea. It means that a manuscript is finished. The first draft at least. Revision will no doubt come, sometimes taking longer than the original draft to complete, but you’re there. Your story has a beginning, a middle (my nemesis) and an end. Whether you’re a plotter that has followed the outline to the letter or a pantser that lets the story go where it will, getting to the finish is an accomplishment all on its own.

I finished my third book this week. I’m on Cloud 9 about it. I still have weeks of revisions ahead of me, but that first draft is written. Really, since I write in first draft format, if I hadn’t gotten a revision letter a couple weeks ago, I would actually be done. It was really the silliest thing. I have a stop and start style, but I was really starting to chug toward the end of my story. After I got my revision letter, I started getting mired down in the details. She said to do this, take out that, add this… and I kind of got paralyzed by the whole thing. I’d revised the first 5 chapters over and over. One of the playfriends recommended I just finish the story, then go back and start revising. So I did. Struck with inspiration, I sat down and wrote 30 pages in two days. The last words being “THE END.”

Whew! Now I know how my story really ends. I had a general idea from the synopsis I’d written, but once it started flowing, it ended a little differently than I had anticipated. Non-writers will never understand how this could happen, but the story just evolves. You sit back and look at the screen and say…well – that’s better than I’d planned. I like that!

The joy is always short-lived though. Now that the first draft is done, you move on to the next step. Get those revisions in, get the word count up, write that scene you skipped, get it critiqued and polished and back out the door. I’m tired just thinking about it. And of course, you know that the minute you deliver that baby to the post office, you start thinking about the next story. You have to be working on SOMETHING so it’s a constant cycle. I’ll readily admit that I’m not really sure what my next WIP will be – I guess it depends on how this one goes.

What was the last thing about your writing that made you giddy? An AHA moment, perhaps? A contest win? A good review? Maybe the completion of a scene you’ve agonized over? Share your happy writing moment with the class. :)


Thursday, March 30, 2006

Brain Dead

Okay, I'm going to admit it. I'm feeling decidedly icky and lazy tonight. I'm tired, I don't feel well, and I just can't get up the energy to rub two brain cells together. So, needless to say, I don't have a blog post ready. I did have a brilliant idea earlier in the week but...I can no longer remember what it was. I didn't think I was supposed to start losing my memory for another 30 or 40 years. I blame it on my kids :-) I swear I lost brain cells the moment sperm touched egg and I haven't gained 'em back. I don't think there's much hope.

If I were organized like PC I'd have had this blog post ready days ago. And then when I came down with strep throat today I wouldn't be staring at a blank computer screen, my throat throbbing, swollen so bad I feel like an orange is wedged inside, with no brilliant ideas pouring forth. Ah, but I am not organized. What I am is a procrastinator. And once again that nasty habit (one I'm trying to break believe it or not) has bit me in the butt.
So anyway, I'm medicated, rambling, and generally grumpy this evening. I'm really sorry. How about I post some eye candy to make up for my bad attitude?


Wednesday, March 29, 2006

So Ya Had a Bad Day

Kelly Clarkson. Reuben Studdard. Fantasia Barino. Carrie Underwood.

You may recognize those names. They’re the winners of the first four American Idol competitions. There’s a new season of AI going on now and last night the remaining ten contestants performed songs from the 21st century. Tonight another contestant will be sent home with his orher dreams tattered and smashed.

Clay Aiken. Josh Gracin. Jennifer Hudson. Bo Bice.

Remember them? Clay and Bo were runners-up. Clay’s music has outsold the contestant he beat and Bo has achieved a tremendous level of success. Josh Gracin finished out his stint in the Marine Corps after his ouster from AI2 and then headed for Nashville where he recorded an album that includes a number one single. Jennifer Hudson was eliminated halfway through the third season of AI, but last fall she landed a plum role in the movie version of the hit Broadway show “Dreamgirls” opposite megastars Jamie Foxx, Eddie Murphy and Beyonce Knowles. As a matter of fact, she beat out AI3 winner Fantasia Barrino for the role.

And who can forget William “I have no professional training” Hung? I’m pretty sure he’s had more CDs released than any AI winner to date. Go figure.

What’s the point of this little stroll down American Idol memory lane?

Last Friday the finalists for the RITA and Golden Heart awards were announced. All around the world, RWA members were waiting to see if they would receive that special phone call informing them of their status as a nominee. This year the RITA has 94 finalists in 13 categories. To be precise, it has 94 books or novellas nominated. There are less than 94 authors represented because some have two or more nominations. As best I can tell, Australian author Bronwyn Jameson has made RITA history by being nominated three times in a single category for books that are linked as a series.

On the pre-published side of the fence, the Golden Heart contest has 71 manuscripts nominated in 10 categories, with several multiple nominees as well.

In both contests combined, 2000 books, novellas and manuscripts were entered. 165 were nominated. There will be 23 winners on July 29 at RWA’s annual conference in Atlanta, Georgia.

Obviously those who win RITA awards have already sold a book. Those who win the Golden Heart… well, that’s the point of this little stroll.

Plenty of Golden Heart winners have gone on to sell their winning manuscripts. Many of them haven’t. The majority of books bought by publishing houses this year will be written by the Bo Bices and Clay Aikens and Jennifer Hudsons of the writing world. And a couple may even be written by the William Hungs. *g*

And the reason for this is that Bo and Clay and Jennifer followed the advice given by Winston Churchill in a 1941 speech at Harrow School where he told the students “Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never--in nothing, great or small, large or petty…”

During the first two months of this year, the Writing Playground interviewed two authors whose debut books were released in 2005. Kelley St. John and Janice Lynn were both Golden Heart finalists. Neither won, but both sold. Sherrilyn Kenyon has sold over 20 books and enjoyed huge success, but as far as I can tell, she’s never even finaled in the Golden Heart contest.

Several of the Playfriends were among those waiting for calls. One of the Playfriends emailed our loop and said Well, since it's 1pm and no one (other than one of the Playfriends and some folks from work) have called me, I'm assuming I didn't make the final cut. Oh, well. Editor X likes my book, and that's all that matters, right? :-)

Damn skippy!!

Another of the Playfriends was on spring break vacation last week. After she got home on Saturday, she posted Anyway, the first thing I did was check the mail because Astrology zone said I'd have good news on a foreign business deal and I was hoping I'd have an envelope from Editor Y. Didn't have one. Was a little bummed. That is until I went to listen to my messages. She called me. I was so surprised to hear her!!!! She said she read the proposal. Loved it. And aside from making a minor change to the date scene when they first meet face to face she said she wants to see the full. Her words were, "really, really good." I'm still floating :-)

Float away, baby!

There is a point to this tale.

So you had a bad day last Friday because you didn’t get a call from an RWA board member. It hurts when you slice open that vein and bleed a story onto the pages and I’m truly sorry that you hurt. But you showed up for the party and as Woody Allen said “Ninety percent of life is just showing up.”

And you know what? In my estimation you’re heroes. Why? Erma Bombeck wrote, “It takes an uncommon amount of guts to put your dreams on the line, to hold them up and say, ‘How good or how bad am I?’ That's where courage comes in.”

So in honor of your bravery, I’m awarding you all a Medal of Courage.

Wear it proudly. Keep it polished. And never, never, never give in.

At the end of every American Idol results show, they’ve played Daniel Powter’s song “Bad Day” while showing a montage of the eliminated contestant’s days on the show. You can hear the song here (right click to open in a new window and wait for the song to start) and then sing along with the partial lyrics below (full lyrics can be found by searching Google).

Where is the moment we needed the most
You kick up the leaves and the magic is lost
They tell me your blue skies fade to grey
They tell me your passion's gone away
And I don't need no carryin' on

You stand in the line just to hit a new low
You're faking a smile with the coffee to go
You tell me your life's been way off line
You're falling to pieces every time
And I don't need no carryin' on

Cause you had a bad day
You're taking one down
You sing a sad song just to turn it around
You say you don't know
You tell me don't lie
You work at a smile and you go for a ride
You had a bad day
The camera don't lie
You're coming back down and you really don't mind
You had a bad day
You had a bad day

So ya had a bad day?

The sun'll come out tomorrow. Bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow there'll be sun.

In the meantime, would you like to vent? To share your disappointment or your story?

Here’s your chance. The phone lines… uh… comment section is open and you can even comment anonymously if you like. Get it off your chest, clear the air and let’s all start anew.

What was YOUR bad day?

There's a guest blogger in the house. She's come to add a few words of wisdom. She also said I should include a disclaimer that I have no control over whether her words were wise or not, but based on experience I believe they will be.

Here's Kristi Gold.

When Marilyn invited me to come out and play by sharing my Golden Heart thoughts, I was more than happy to do it. I believe it illustrates both the good and not so good aspects of entering such a notable contest.

First of all, keep in mind that my GH accomplishments began—and ended—back in 1996. Two years prior, I'd had some moderate success with an all-genre contest—one honorable mention and one 2nd place in the romance category—so when I joined RWA five months before the entry deadline, I took the advice of my newfound chapter mates and tossed my hat into the GH ring. I had no expectations whatsoever, and I certainly didn't expect to final in two categories: Single Title and Long Contemporary (with a book that was actually a single title, yet back then we weren't allowed to enter two manuscripts in the same category). Although I was blissfully ignorant, it did not take me long to realize, and appreciate, the notoriety the GH brought. It also did not take me long to realize that having two finalists did not guarantee a win, or a sale, because neither won and neither sold. And the following year, I learned a painful lesson on putting too much stock in a contest. I decided to re-enter both finalists manuscripts with a few revisions and didn't final with any. For three days I mourned and basically quit writing altogether. But with the help of a dear friend, and a contest win three days later that paid my way to the RWA national conference, I got over it and got on with the program. After that, I realized that I would suffer debilitating disappointment only if I allowed it to happen, which I didn't. At least not too much.:)

Did I enter the GH again? You bet I did, but not with either former GH finalist. By that time, I'd turned my focus to series romance and chose to enter several new projects over the next two years. You guessed it—none of them finaled. In fact, one of my personal favorites, Rope the Moon, ended up in the lower quadrant—twice. It had no success in other contests aside from one honorable mention, and I had several judges tell me it wasn't appropriate for short contemporary, period. Funny thing is, it went on to be my first sale to Silhouette Desire in 1999, was eventually titled Cowboy For Keeps, and subsequently became a RITA finalist the following year for Best First Book. Go figure.

For anyone opting to enter any contest, including the GH, it's important to keep in mind that contests have advantages and disadvantages. If you final, the glory is wonderful, the boost to the ego grand—and temporary. The damage that might be done can sometimes be devastating, if you let it. Contests can single out stellar writing, perhaps open a door to publications, but they can also exclude marketable and equally good manuscripts that will get noticed through the standard submission process, i.e., pitches and queries. However, on a rarely considered note, contests do prepare you for that publishing enigma known as 'the review,' but then that's another story altogether.

I will now leave everyone with one of my favorite quotes from Calvin Coolidge, and sent to me by talented author, Virginia Kantra, very early in my career. I believe it says it all.

Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan 'Press On' has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.

Kristi Gold

House of Midnight Fantasies
Silhouette Desire, May 2006
Romantic Times BookClub Top Pick, 4 ½ star review


1996 Romance Writers of America® Double Golden Heart Finalist
2001 RITA Nominee, Cowboy for Keeps, Best First Book
Ten-time Romantic Times BookClub Top Pick Designation
Romantic Times W.I.S.H. Award
2004 National Reader's Choice Winner, Best Short Contemporary Series
Romantic Times BookClub Reviewer's Choice Winner, 2003 and 2004
2004 Romantic Times BookClub Lifetime Achievement Award Nominee,
Series Storyteller of the Year
2005 Romantic Times BookClub Reviewer's Choice Nominee
Seven #1 Waldenbook Series Best-sellers

The Playground now returns to its regularly scheduled programming and you can rant away!

Tuesday, March 28, 2006


I came to a very difficult decision this weekend. Although my CP and the Playfriends have heard various bits of rants about the problem, this is the first they will have heard of the decision.

My current WIP has been retired.

It’s not that I don’t like this book or the characters. I do; I love the characters, and I think the plot has promise. It just isn’t working. At least not right now. I’ve been working on this book for ages now, and I’m only barely breaking triple digits in page numbers. I don’t know where it’s going or how it’s going to get there. I’ve tried outlining. I’ve tried brainstorming. I’ve tried “just writing” to see where it may go.

Instead of looking forward to writing, I dread it. I look for other things to keep me from booting up the laptop. We’ve gone beyond cleaning out sock drawers here—we’re in deep avoidance. Not wanting to write hurts me because I love to write.

“But, Kimberly,” you say, “you have to finish it to show you can.” Well, I’ve finished books before—2 to be exact, 3 if you count the complete revision of my first book. I know I can finish a book, I just don’t think I can finish this one. At least not right now.

The main problem I have with this book is that I’m trying to write a book I know can’t sell. It’s too chick-lit-ish to be a romance, but not chick-lit enough to be a true chick-lit. It’s too short to be single title, yet it won’t fit in any of the category lines. I feel like I’m spinning my wheels, writing a book for the pure sake of getting it rejected. At this stage in the game, I think I need to be concentrating on writing good books that have a hope of selling.

“You HAVE to finish it,” shout the Playfriends, “an editor has said she’d look at it.” Well, yeah, but that same editor is looking at something else of mine right now. I don’t want to squander any goodwill I might have by sending her a manuscript that is wrong for her house and unsellable.

Hence the trip to the back burner for the WIP.

I would have had to set the current WIP aside to work on the revisions for Book #2 anyway. And should that book get rejected after the rewrite, I need to have something else to pitch. I have so many ideas for books that DO fit somewhere, it seems like I should be nurturing and cooking those ideas into partials and fulls—not dragging a chapter out sentence by torturous sentence.

But I’m not setting bonfires or anything. I’ve just moved all the files off my desktop, packed up all my notes, critted chapters, and contest comments into a 3-ring binder, and placed the binder on the bookshelf. I’ll go back to it one day. Maybe when I’m a stronger, better writer, the plot problems and solutions will become clear. Maybe I’ll feel ready to turn it into the single title it needs to be. Maybe I’ll be ready to write the story that these characters I love so much deserve. We'll consider its retirement temporary.

It was tough to come to this decision. I felt like a quitter. I felt guilty for contemplating abandoning a project mid-way through. I’d invested a lot of hours in that WIP—hours that now would be “wasted.”

But now that I’ve done it, I feel so much better. A weight has been lifted off my shoulders; the albatross has been removed from my neck. I’m so excited about doing the revision. The ideas for new books that have been poking at my mind for months now are swimming into focus and I’m excited about plotting them and getting to work.

Sometimes I think we need to know when to say when. It’s hard to let go. But I only have so much time and energy. I want to work on a book that is a joy to write—not a screaming pain.

So don’t judge me too harshly for giving up. I thank my wonderful CP and the Playfriends for all the effort they’ve expended trying to get me through this WIP. (So you won’t be left hanging for an indefinite amount of time…the heroine and hero decide they are perfect for each other and live Happily Ever After.)

I can’t wait to start writing again…

Monday, March 27, 2006

Baby Face

28 weeks and counting. Isn't Grandbaby2B gorgeous?

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Moody Blues

I'm suffering from a severe case of moodiness this weekend. Now, my husband will tell you that I'm by no means even-tempered, but I haven't been this depressed in a long time.

There isn't really any cause for it. Probably hormonal, with some tiredness thrown in. But it's one of those really ugly moods that causes you to bristle when anyone so much as says "Hello." Yuckiness topped off by guilt over feeling so grouchy. I don't like it. I want it to go away. But it won't. Not until it is good and ready.

I just can't write when I'm like this. Total and complete solitude is what I crave, which means I can't even stand to be around my characters.

I've noticed that my moods tend to affect my writing in a variety of ways. It is easier to write when all is well in my world. I'm feeling slightly confident and happy with the way things are going. Slight irritation with things or people around me can actually push me to write, because it is an escape from daily reality. Tiredness will completely shut down my creativity. My brain simply refuses to function no matter how much I tell it to produce. Sadness is something I can eventually channel into my writing, if I work on the right scene. The most stifling of feelings for me are depression and guilt, probably because they are fed by swirling thoughts that leave no room for my characters to speak.

One of my RWA chapters, Southern Magic, has a blog where authors discussed how mood affected their ability to write love scenes. I found I'm not the only one who can't write sexy in the throes of PMS. :)

Some moods I can work my way through. I often force myself to write, even if what goes onto the page is worthless, because a low mood will lift just from the act of writing. In a way, writing can be therapy for me. But I have to force myself to do it.

Hopefully, this week will be better and I'll get back on the creative track. Until then, I'll do other creative things and get a lot of projects out of the way, so I can focus on my writing when I'm back in the "mood."

How do moods affect your writing life? Do you work through them or just wait them out?


Friday, March 24, 2006

Really cool people we know, part 3

Wow! The RITA finalists were announced today. While we congratulate all the finalists, we need to give special shout-outs to the following finalists:

Best First Book:
Worth Every Risk by Dianna Love Snell
Best Long Contemporary Romance:
Worth Every Risk by Dianna Love Snell

Dianna is very cool in many ways. She was a guest author at the HOD Luncheon last year, and will return to sign again this year. She’s also a member of that other chapter Kira, Danniele and I belong to—Southern Magic. She’s a lot of fun and we’ll be hoping for a double win in Atlanta! (If I’m not mistaken, this book also won the Golden Heart in its pre-published days.)

Best Novella:
“The Naked Truth about Guys” in The Naked Truth by Alesia Holliday

Alesia was kind enough to contribute to Marilyn’s article for the Playground on blogging. With a title like that, I need to read that one…

Best Long Historical Romance:
To Pleasure a Prince by Sabrina Jeffries

Sabrina was a guest speaker at HOD’s luncheon in 2004. Great speaker. She also sent a basket for this year’s luncheon—and a copy of that book is in it. Hmmm, I wonder if I can get the basket open without anyone being able to tell…

Best Romantic Suspense:
In Deep Voodoo by Stephanie Bond

Stephanie, of course, is our speaker at the 2006 Readers’ Luncheon (and we’re hoping to get an interview with her for the Playground). I got to meet her in Reno last year—she’s so nice. I’ve heard she’s a fantastic speaker, and I’m really looking forward to this year’s luncheon.
I just love this title, btw.
And now, in the most amazing hat trick ever....

Best Short Contemporary Romance:
The Rich Stranger by Bronwyn Jameson
The Rugged Loner by Bronwyn Jameson
The Ruthless Groom by Bronwyn Jameson

Now, we all know that Bronwyn is fabulous. Just check out her interview in the Sandbox this month. Now, TRIPLE finaling in the RITA is amazing. Triple finaling in ONE category is jawdropping. BUT… these three books are Bronwyn’s “Princes of the Outback” trilogy. As far as we can tell, this is the first time in RWA history that a complete series has finaled in the RITAs.

All the Playfriends are beyond impressed, and we’ll be cheering for you in Atlanta.

We told you we know really cool people…

Find Your Grail

Smarty Pants has returned from the very chilly New York City. Cold aside, it was a great trip. As I anticipated, Spamalot was FABULOUS. Honestly, the best show I’ve ever seen on Broadway. Very well done, great singing, and of course, very funny. Hank Azaria and David Hyde Pierce were phenomenal – everyone was. The lead female role of the Lady of the Lake was one that Madeline Kahn would have made her own twenty years ago.

Coconuts and shrubberies aside, one of the songs on the soundtrack was the inspiring (if any of the songs on the soundtrack could be taken seriously) “Find Your Grail” sung by the Lady of the Lake after God charged King Arthur and his knights with their holy quest.

“If you trust in your soul
Keep your eyes on the goal
Then the prize you won’t fail
That’s your Grail
That’s your Grail.

So be strong
Keep right on
To the end of your song
Do not fail
Find your Grail
Find your Grail.

Life is really up to you
You must choose what to pursue
Set your mind on what to find
And there’s nothing you can’t do

So keep right to the end
You’ll find your goal my friend
You won’t fail
Find your Grail
Find your Grail
Find your Grail”

- Lady of the Lake, “Find Your Grail” written by Eric Idle and John du Prez

I found this song inspiring – slightly more so than “He Is Not Dead Yet” or the “Fisch Schlapping Song.” Cheesy British humor aside, it had a really good message. In the play, the characters each search not only for the actual grail, but their “grail” within themselves. I think for many of us on that lurk on the Playground, our Grail is the SALE. Getting that call from the editor that they want to buy our book and seeing it in print on a bookshelf at the mall. It’s the one thing that we have chosen to strive for.

Keep your eyes on you goal and you won’t fail…find your grail.

I think that’s what we’re really doing here on the Playground. Although it can sometimes be a distraction from the actual process of writing, it is helping us focus on our Grail – bringing us that much closer. And if we keep our focus, there’s no way that we won’t eventually succeed.

Wow. Life lessons from Monty Python. Who knew? So…what’s your Grail?


Thursday, March 23, 2006


As you read this post I'm lounging on the beach, sipping Mai Tais and enjoying the view. Well, okay, that's a bit of an exaggeration. I'm probably at the beach but more than likely, I'm chasing 2 children and trying not to fry my paler than pale skin. But I am enjoying myself (and the view of my wonderful husband building sand castles with Sweet Pea and Baby Girl :-).

Every year my family takes this week (AEA week for those of us in Alabama) for ourselves. My parents, my sister, her husband, their son, my husband and 2 girls, my brother and his new wife, and usually the baby of the bunch (another brother) all gather together for this week. This year my baby brother has to stay at college - how dare they schedule exams this week?!? And my sister and her family can only stay a few days since she just started her new job and couldn't get the entire week off. But none of that matters.

We share a house. Lounge by the pool. Grill out whenever we feel like it. Read books. Take naps. Play games. Talk. Catch up. Or do nothing at all. It's heaven.

And a chance for us all to reconnect.

Growing up, our family vacations always centered around traveling to visit family. As one of the few family units on both sides that deigned to move away from the nest, we always seemed to use whatever vacation time was available to go back home. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely loved those trips as a child. I'm very close to my family and despite the fact that I only saw them once a year, really enjoy spending time with my aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents.

But somehow this is different.

It isn't like we don't see each other on a regular basis. I work for my father for heaven's sake. So does my brother. My mother works at my daughter's school. My sister and her family are staying with my parents until they find a house. We have plenty of togetherness. So why is this different?

Because there's no pressure. We simply kick back and enjoy the view.

Here's hoping you've found a view to enjoy this Spring Break!


In case you haven't...Here's Matthew. May he be waiting beside your pool with a Mai Tai in his hand :-)

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

1/2 x 10K = ?


We got our 5000th blog hit just a short while ago.

Thanks to our visitors for their patronage and comments. If you've had half as much fun with the website and blog as we have, then you're having a great time.

The Friends at the Writing Playground


There’s probably not an author around who hasn’t been asked the question “Where do you get your ideas?” I know I’ve asked it of many authors I’ve met in person or chatted with online. The idea is what sparks a book, short story or article. From one tiny kernel, a writer begins to develop something larger.

Under current law ideas (and titles) are not copyrightable. I could write a book and call it Gone with the Wind and could not be prosecuted. I highly doubt anyone would buy it. Or maybe they would just to see what idiot tried to write a book using the title of one of the 20th century’s most popular novels.

I recently sold a short story based on an idea I saw in a news article on the Internet. I’m currently working on a short story based on an idea I saw on an email loop. My stalled novel came from an news article about women shopping for sperm online.

What would happen if ideas suddenly became subject to copyright laws? That may happen next month when a London judge rules on a lawsuit brought about by two authors who claim that Dan Brown stole the idea for The DaVinci Code from their 1982 book The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail. Brown readily acknowledges that he read Holy Blood but says he's shocked by the accusations, given that a number of other authors have used the same bloodline of Jesus idea in their books. Brown even used the authors' names in an anagram to name one of the characters in TDC as one way of acknowledging their work.

Where did the authors of Holy Blood get their ideas? And why aren’t they being sued for stealing those ideas? For that matter, shouldn't they all be sued by some "Keeper of the Bible" for appropriating ideas from the teachings of Christ?

The movie version of The DaVinci Code is set for release in less than two months. The verdict is expected a month before the release date. Should be interesting.

Back to my original idea. Well it’s not original because I read about this on an online message board. Will that person sue me? Can you see this is a never-ending spiral?

If this judge rules against Dan Brown and his publisher, what does that do to the world of fiction writing? Will our pool of ideas dry up?

Don’t worry. I’m not going to ask your opinion about this case.

But I will ask you this: where do you get your ideas?

I need all the help I can get. ;)

P.S. According to our stat counter, we're very close to our 5000th hit on this blog. I predict we'll hit it today or tomorrow. Squeeeeeeeeeeeee!

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Pride and Prejudice

I watched Pride and Prejudice (the new one) on Saturday. And Sunday. And Monday. Sadly, it needs to go back to NetFlix so I won’t get to watch it again unless DG decides to buy me my own copy.

I love a good love story. Big surprise, huh? I don’t like those tear-jerker love stories where somebody dies of a horrible disease—to play off Angel’s post yesterday, I want my Happily Ever After. I want two people I’ve come to love over the course of the story to discover they are perfect for each other. I want kisses and sweet smiles and maybe a nuzzle. I want to be happy at the end as well. If I want bad news and trauma and drama, I’ll watch CNN, thanks.

But here’s my problem. I’m proud of the books I’ve written (even if they aren’t published yet). I’m proud of my recent contest finals and the positive feedback I’m getting from editors. I’m proud of our website and our blog. Yet I have to constantly fight the prejudice some folks have towards the genre.

See, I’m an English teacher. I have an MA in British and American Literature. I teach unwilling sophomores the complexities of Beowulf and Shakespeare and John Donne. So most folks think that I should only be reading Great Literature. And if I want to write a book, then it should be some literary fiction with a Deep Meaning about the Mysteries of Life—preferably with heavy symbolism and rich metaphors.


I’ve read lots of Great Literature. There’s some stuff I have to teach simply because it’s Great Literature, but I’d rather stick forks in my eyeballs than actually read it. I’m so tired of defending genre writing simply because folks want to get all snotty about it.

You wanna talk trash?

Jane Austen—romance.

Shakespeare’s comedies—romance.

The Bronte sisters—romance, romance, romance

Wyatt, Spenser, Ralegh, Donne, Keats. Most of the Restoration, about half of the Victorian period. Need I go on? Heck, I haven’t even gotten to the turn of the century in Brit Lit, and I haven’t even touched on American Lit yet.

Romance rules.

Guinevere and Lancelot. Partlet and Chanticleer. Astrophil and Stella. Hero and Leander. Odysseus and Penelope. Cupid and Psyche. Great Literature is love story after love story.

Poems of love, devotion, and seduction abound from our earliest poets in all languages. The desire to love and be loved is universal. The search for love and the stories of love fill the literary canon. Don’t tell me romance is trash. I know better.

Read a romance with pride.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Is HEA real?

As most of my close friends know (and are tired of hearing about, I'm sure), I spent this past week preparing for and throwing my Mom's wedding shower. That's right--my Mom's. You see, my Mother is getting married in May. Though she lives far away, she still has friends near me from when she lived in this area, so I wanted to give her a chance to celebrate her upcoming marriage with them.

My Mother has been married before and divorced for reasons that are nobody's business but hers. Life is not easy juggling work and being a single Mom to two children still at home. With her fiance's son, she has now embraced a third. I firmly believe that no one deserves happiness more than my Mother. And she's finally found it in her late 40s. (I can say that because my Mother has no hang-ups about her age.)

I wanted to make this party a magical time--out of the ordinary, forever memorable. For some reason, I decided on an arabian nights theme. Halfway through the project, both my mother-in-law and I wondered what I had gotten us into, but the end result was magical. A flower-strewn canopy, candles, chocolate fountain, petit fours (nectar of the gods!), and touches of gold everywhere. Watching my Mother laugh and talk with her friends while lounging on pillows of burgundy, gold, blue, and green made me realize happily ever after is real.

As romance writers, we are often criticized for writing books that give women unrealistic expectations. Telling them there is a knight in shining armor out there who will carry them into the sunset. The Playfriends have actually discussed this on more than one ocassion, because we want our books to end with happily ever after--but not a cheesy one. I think HEA works best when it grows out of who your characters are: their goals, their dreams, their secret jokes, their hopes for the future. Not just the generic "getting married and having a baby" type ending (not that there's anything wrong with that.).

Why is it unrealistic for women to hope for the best? To believe there is someone out there who will treasure them for who they are and what they have to offer? It may not happen the way they expect it, but it can happen! Just look at my Mother. Will she still have to deal with problems at work and moody teenagers? Sure. We all have issues. But she's happy and in love, which only makes me want to gag ocassionally. ;) Her fiance is literally a white knight who arrived in a horse trailer (close enough). Cliche though it may sound, love can see you through a lot. And I know that from my own Happily Ever After!

So to my Mother--keep believing in happily ever after. You deserve it! The same goes for women everywhere.


The pictures are from the shower. From left to right, that's me, my mother-in-law, and my Mom.

Something fun

This week is Spring Break here in north Alabama--wonderfully coinciding with the first day of Spring.

But the best thing about this week? It's National Bubble Blowing Week. Sounds like a great way to welcome Spring AND do something fun with the kidlings while they're out of school.

If you haven't blown bubbles in a while, don't let the fact you don't have a small child around stop you...


Where is everybody?

A very quiet weekend on the blog...can you tell the Playfriends "got a life" this weekend?

Let's see 3 Playfriends are on trips, one is recovering from throwing one heck of a bridal shower yesterday (with all the family fun that includes), and then there's me.

Sigh... I wish I had a life this weekend. Instead, I'm catching up on laundry and cleaning the house before the Health Dept. comes to take AC away. I'm playing a rousing mental game of "Anywhere but here."

So, what are YOU doing this weekend? And where would you rather be?


Friday, March 17, 2006

The Great White Way

As you read this blog, Smarty Pants is wandering through the streets of Manhattan. I’ve met a friend there and we are no doubt eating fabulous food and complaining about how much our feet hurt after walking so much. It’s St. Patrick’s Day, so we’ll be Irish for the day, partaking in green beer and watching the parade from the steps of the Met as it goes down 5th Avenue. By now, I've probably spent too much money on a knockoff Dooney & Burke purse in Chinatown and spend two hours in line at the TKTS booth trying to get some last minute cheap tickets to something on Broadway that night.

Last night, I went to see Spamalot. I am a devoted Monty Python fan and I was willing to cough up the $$ in advance for that one. I find it’s the kind of humor you either get and love or you think it is the most ridiculous drivel you’ve ever heard. DB leaves the room every time I pop the Holy Grail into the DVD player. He does that with most things I watch, but just a few minutes of banter about sparrows and coconuts and he’s gone. (I’m chuckling to myself just thinking about it – “It’s not a question of how he grips it! It’s a question of weight ratio. A 2 ounce sparrow cannot lift a one pound coconut!” I’ll stop now.) So, when the opportunity arose to go to NYC with a like-minded friend – Shubert Theater here I come.

I guess to play off Kimberly’s earlier posts, this is one of the things I enjoy that would be considered a guilty pleasure of mine. My sense of humor, even as a child, was completely different from everyone around me. Sarcasm from a five year old is unexpected at best, disturbing at the very least – but it has always been a part of me. When I discovered Monty Python and Rocky Horror Picture Show in high school…I knew I had found my people, so to speak, and yes - some of them were cross-dressers.

Movies are not the only place I find great humor. I also find myself chuckling now and then while reading. I’m not much for physical or jokey comedy, but a lot of the books I read have the sophisticated humor I enjoy. I wonder sometimes if I am laughing at the point the author intended me to laugh or even if the author knows what they said is amusing. People laugh at me all the time (no comments from the playfriends) when I say things and I really don’t intend for it to be funny. I guess I just have a twisted point of view that some people – like Monty Python – enjoy and others find very strange. Hopefully, my future editors and readers will GET it.

Ok – so since we’ve established what kind of strange stuff I like - what kind of humor do you enjoy? What was the last book that made you laugh? What did you enjoy about that scene?

Now, it's time for me to get back to my trip. RUN AWAY!! (sorry, I said I'd stop)

Thursday, March 16, 2006


PM asked yesterday what makes a good hero. This ties in beautifully with what I've been contemplating lately :-) I'm in the process of my first round edits for the book I'm working on (first round because I write very rough drafts and end up with several edits - although each pass goes fairly quickly).

Anyway, the edit stage of any book is when I finally let out the other people that have been trying to push their way into the forefront of my brain for attention. Several of them leak out - which is why I'm currently plotting two spin-off books from the one I'm working on now for 3 of the secondary characters - but generally I can hold them at bay (cause if I didn't I'd never be able to concentrate on the current story). My process always begins with the characters so whenever I start a new story I begin with a character sketch. Now, I don't mean a detailed questionnaire or anything, the playfriends with attest to the fact that I abhor conventional methods for anything :-). I generally just sit down with my pen and paper, or in front of the computer, or with my alphasmart and start writing/brainstorming ideas for this character. In most cases, there are quite of few things that the person is certain of :-) and a few here and there where I fill in the details myself.

This brings me to a question though....Characterization. What makes a character likeable? And how do you take an idea from your imagination (sssshhh, don't tell them I said that) and breath life into them? What makes these people REAL? 3 Dimensional?

What makes a character pop off the page for you? Make you truly care about them and the struggles they face?

Instigator - who is shamelessly picking brains to make sure that her characters are perfectly real :-)

New stuff on the Playground

Yesterday was the 15th, and Smarty Pants updated the Playground. We have a new article from Counselor Shelley in the Clinc, a book review from yours truly, and a Q&A with Eden Bradley.

If you haven't entered the "Win a Day at the Beach (Almost)" contest, you can do that while you're there as well.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Mr. Perfect

Two nights ago I picked up a book I read four years ago. It’s Mr. Perfect by Maven Linda Howard. I’d forgotten just how funny and brilliant the book is.

To summarize briefly, Jaine Bright and three friends spend every Friday night relaxing at a local bar. On one Friday night, they begin discussing the perfect man and the result is “The List,” which details the attributes they find necessary for any man to be considered perfect. When “The List” accidentally becomes public it causes a national sensation. The “Ladies of the List” figure all they can do it ride out the notoriety. That is until one of them is murdered. Then things take a decidedly suspenseful twist and Jaine must depend on her neighbor, Detective Sam Donovan who she originally thought was a drunk or a drug dealer. Now she's got the hots for him and the feeling is mutual. Sam will leap tall buildings to catch this killer before he gets to Jaine.

The list that Jaine and her friends drew up contained qualities like faithfulness, reliability, good sense of humor along with some specefic physical characteristics.

This made me start thinking about what I want to see in a romance novel hero. What makes the hero “perfect?”

I like a man who is heroic. I like a man who has the courage to stand behind his beliefs, but also the courage to follow his heart. I want to see a man who will do anything for love. He must be faithful, reliable, have a good heart, be intelligent and have a good sense of humor and take responsibility for his actions. It also helps if he likes babies and animals.

My heroes need to be sexy and have sex appeal, and a great smile is a must. He should also have stamina, tight jeans, boots and a Resistol (or Stetson as the case may be) or an Armani suit, Italian leather shoes and a ridiculously expensive silk tie. He can wear boxers or briefs or go commando. He need six-pack abs, broad shoulders, narrow hips, a trim waist, a tight butt, big hands and a big— Ha! You thought I was going to mention a body part. Well, it is a body part. He must have a big heart.

There’s one more thing. He should be a little rough around the edges in some fashion so that the heroine can smooth it out. Like Dorothy in Jerry Maguire, she should complete him. And he should complete her.

So what’s YOUR Mr. Perfect like? Is there a hero in a book or movie who exhibits all the criteria on your list? Right now, I’m thinking Sam Donovan does a darn good job. And he has a big… ;-)

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Sing like you don't need the money...

As you know, Saturday was our Chapter meeting. It takes about 45 minutes to get to the meeting from my house. Sometimes I’ll ride with one of the other Playfriends, but most times, I go alone. I don’t mind; in fact, I look forward to it. I can use that time to plot my book—since I have to “talk” my way through things, the privacy of the car gives me the chance to do that without embarrassment. Sometimes, I just need the chance to think or the time to be alone with my thoughts.

But most of the time, I SING.

I sing loud. I sing proud. I sing with feeling and pizzazz. I turn the stereo up to levels that threaten my hearing and sing my soul out to the back rows of sold-out arenas. Given a long enough trip, I can sing myself hoarse. I can’t carry a tune in a bucket, but give me the open road and I’m Aretha, Madonna, Reba, Billy Joel, and the Beatles all rolled in to one.

Admit it—you have a CD or tape hidden away that you’re embarrassed to mention you own. But, in the privacy of your car at 70 mph, that CD is the music of choice because you can really sing along (not sing; I mean SING, baby). I have a couple that go all the way back to my college days when I made the trip between Knoxville and Birmingham every other weekend. No, I won’t tell you which ones. It’s my driving music. It’s personal. And embarrassing.

Singing at the top of my lungs energizes me. It’s something small I can do for myself to recharge. Since I’m in the car already, it’s like I’m multi-tasking. (And since I love to multi-task, I get the extra boost from that.) It costs nothing but gas, and I’m paying for that anyway—song or no song. I might as will do something that makes me happy.

(Tangent alert: Why are small things that make us happy called “guilty pleasures?” Should I really feel guilty about the Hershey kiss stash in my desk drawer that my child doesn’t know about? If I want to take the afternoon off and watch My Big Fat Greek Wedding or Emma for the 500th time, should I feel guilty? I have a piece of lingerie that makes me feel beautiful when I wear it. I paid far too much money for it and no one but DG ever even sees it. Is wearing it a guilty pleasure? Why do we have to feel guilty about making ourselves happy?)

So what do you do to make you happy? And how long has it been since you’ve done it?

Problem Child

Monday, March 13, 2006

What's Your Process?

At the end of last week, I read an article in Inklings by Shelley Bradley reporting on a presentation given by author Candace Havens about her process. In a nutshell, she speeds through her first draft, getting it on paper as quickly as possible, ignoring everything else during this period of time. A few weeks later, she does the same with her editing. This article made a big impression on me because in some ways it is similar to the process I think I have.

I say "think" because I haven't actually written a book according to my supposed process, but there have been several clues as to what it is. I've always been the type to plan in advance, but end up working on whatever has the nearest deadline. Since I'm not published and don't have an editor to keep me on my toes, my books don't have a specific deadline. Thus they get moved to the bottom of the writing priority pile more often than not. This is always justified by the thought that I'm still writing, just not on my book. An article here, a short story there. Polishing up that synopsis for a contest entry. It's still writing, right?

In the middle of my last book, I went away for the weekend. This trip to a B&B was a gift from my husband for Mother's Day. Lovely man!!! Did I plan to relax while I was gone? Sure. But I chose to make that weekend a time to focus on my book. I wanted to jumpstart it and use that precious uninterrupted time to get as much done as possible (in between baths in the old-fashioned tub and naps). And I did. After a few rough starts, I managed to focus really well. That was my most prolific time ever-50 pages in 2 days.

When I came home, I continued to work on that book until the end. Amazingly enough, it was easy. I stayed immersed in the characters, allowing their reactions and interactions to come more naturally (or so it seemed to me). I finished very quickly, with less angst than I usually run into when I'm starting and stopping. This was a revelation to me. If I didn't have to spend time getting back into my characters' heads and refreshing my memory on where the story has been and is going, then the writing is much quicker. I'm not a fast writer by any means, so speeding it up is a good thing. Plus, when I do finally get a contract, I'll know better how long it actually takes me to write a book from start to finish.

This was my first inkling as to what my process is. And I knew that from two things 1. the positive impact it had on my writing and 2. it fit in with what I already knew about myself as a person and as a writer. My idea for my next book is to get any outstanding commitments out of the way, then block out a period of time to just work on this book. I'm not talking about holing up in the mountains for weeks on end. Real writers have lives. But I'm planning to use any and all writing time to focus on this project. And letting some things slide in the short term (like housework and extra commitments-especially ones that I dislike anyway). :)

Then I can edit to my heart's content. See, I'm one of those people who love to edit. Getting the initial draft on paper is like walking through sand for me. Hard and tiring. I have to force myself through it, which means I don't particularly like it. So why not get it over with?!?! Then I can focus on the good part.

This was one of those AHA moments that writers love, similar to the first inkling I had of what my voice really sounded like. A moment that comes not from what another has told you, but a self-revelation. It feels really good-and right. Deep down within.

So what kind of process do you have? Are you a plotter (like me?) or a panster (like all the other playfriends?)? Are you a mixture of both? Do you love to do the first draft or just get it down so you can move on to the good stuff? What is one thing that makes your process unusual?

I'm looking forward to hearing all about it.


Sunday, March 12, 2006


Nope. This isn't about the television show.

It's about our blog statistics.

Tonight we had our 4500th hit!

We had 204 hits alone last Wednesday. What, you ask, was on the blog last Wednesday?

Not what, but who. Brad, George, Eric, Viggo, Dean, Pierce, Matt, Ben, James, Hugh, Heath, Harrison, Gerard, Johnny, Patrick and Raoul.

Which just goes to prove that you draw more bees with sugar than vinegar. *g*

Buzz, buzz.

Another winner!

Congrats goes out to kimw for winning our contest yesterday by posting about "why romance?" Kimw picks up a copy of Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie!

Kimw : email me your name and mailing address to


One more cool person we know

We got a shout-out over on Bronwyn Jameson's blog and I'd like to return the favor. I got to know Bron by reviewing her books and then last summer I got to meet her in Reno at the RWA national conference. Matter of fact, someone took a photo of us together at the eHarlequin pajama party.

Bron wrote in her blog that day "This is a picture with Marilyn Puett, Desire reader, writer, reviewer and, as the T-shirt says, Chat Room Queen. Note that we are standing in front of the urns, drinking tea like the ladies we are, and resisting any urge to join the ruckus heading out to the Garage nightclub." Yessiree, we were behaving like ladies. :-) And the chat room queen comment referred to my old duties as chat moderator at Writers Unlimited, where I still post a review or two. It's a very romance-friendly review site if you're looking for a place to get your books reviewed.

Anyway, howdy right back at ya, Bron! Or maybe that should be "G'day!"

Saturday, March 11, 2006

More cool people we know...and where to meet them.

Okay folks, if you are within driving distance of Huntsville, AL, you should really plan to come to Heart of Dixie's Romance Readers' Luncheon on May 6th. Stephanie Bond is our guest speaker, and we have 23 other fabulous authors attending.

You can see the full list of attending authors, see the schedule for the day, and download a registration form here.

It is a really fun day--raffles, door prizes, a book fair and autograph session, and, of course, lunch--all for the bargin price of $25.

In addition to meeting all of those really cool people, three of the five Playfriends will be there as well. And we're kinda cool too.

The Children are off at their chapter meeting today. We'll check back in this evening. In the meantime, we'll pose a question to our readers...

1. Why romance?

It accounts for over 50% of the paperback fiction market so it has plenty of devoted fans. If you read or write romance...why? What is it that draws you to the genre?

All our responses will be entered into a drawing this evening for a prize. I haven't decided what yet, but I'm sure it will be great! :)


Friday, March 10, 2006

A little repair work

This is a test. It is only a test. No need to seek shelter or go out and buy milk and bread.

The Blame Game

As I mentioned in my blog last week, my day job is giving me fits. I’m transitioning to a new position and walking on eggshells waiting for something to go wrong. Thus far the only thing to surface is that everything currently going wrong is my fault. This is what typically happens when someone leaves an organization (at least where I work). It’s easier when something goes wrong to say…

“well you know {name here}. I’m not sure where they were with that when they left and the ball probably got dropped.”

“{name here} was managing that and was having some personal problems, so it doesn’t surprise me that its all messed up.”

I can already hear my name being taken in vain all up and down the hallways. We’re currently getting Playground t-shirts and it makes me wonder if I can get Darling Geek to design me one that says “Scapegoat” with a funny graphic on it.

Anyway, this whole thing has made me think about blame and excuses in general. In the past, we’ve discussed personal accountability and the myriad of excuses we all come up with when our WIP isn’t progressing at all. I could say that I was chugging along until I got the revision letter and now I’m just trying to process it all and see how it impacts my story before I proceed. It sounds good and I guess that’s really what I am doing, but still, it doesn’t matter. Either I write or I don’t. If I do write, I might get published. If I don’t write, I’ll never get published. Words on paper!

Instigator wants to frolic in the sun and do things other than write. I don’t care what I do, I’m just not in a mental state to write. I’m either in the mood or I’m not, a feast and famine writer struggling to keep up with that “1 page a day” mantra that is a polar opposite to how I write normally. I don’t have a muse that I chase around, but sometimes I can just sit and write 20 pages without stopping. Then I won’t open the file for a month. I hate that I write so inconsistently and I need to LEARN how to perform in my writing as consistently as I perform at my day job (which shouldn’t be much of a stretch according to some people).

If you’ve got a process for getting yourself in the writing place, please share it. Some people say certain music gets them flowing, some can only work at certain times of day, some have to plot in the shower or the car before they can sit down and write. Some are just fortunate enough to have built that habit. What do you do?


(Oh and Johnny has nothing to do with the post, really. He's just there to look pretty.)

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Spring Is In The Air

I can't compete with the muscled men that graced our blog yesterday. I'm not even going to try. But I am going to bring up another subject equally close to my heart.

Spring is finally here. I wore a short sleeved shirt today, dug my cute warm-weather flats out of my shoe pile, and put Sweet Pea in a skort for school. I even took off from work early to take the girls to the park (we got side-tracked at my mother's but I made up for it by letting them play on the swingset there and hitting Chuck E Cheese instead. I am the worlds best mother :-) and quite possibly need to have my head examined). Sweet Pea's favorite book at the moment is Bambi. At this time of year I can't help but think of twitterpatted - everything is new and perfect. Spring is the season for love.

So you'd think it would be easy to write about love at this time of year, right? WRONG! It's that much harder to hole up inside, sit in front of a computer screen and grind out those words that just can't quite measure up to the picture in your brain. Especially when the sun is shining, the birds are singing, and the thermometer reads a perfect 75. For a natural born procrastinator - that would be me - Spring can really be a tough time of year.

I've come up with a few tricks to help keep my head where it needs to be - finishing this first rough draft. I tend to write better at night. Once the sun's gone down the temptation isn't quite so great. I take my AlphaSmart outside and write in the sunshine. I take pages with me to edit at the park (although that can be tough with a 4.5 and almost 2 year old running around).

Okay, so those work, but I'm looking for more ways to take advantage of the beautiful Spring season while still accomplishing everything I need to. HELP! Share your ideas Please!


And just cause I love prime beefcake...

P.S. I couldn't resist looking at the Raoul Bova site this morning and once I did I had to post some of his pictures. Man is he HOT HOT HOT!

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

We have a winner!

Jennifer correctly named all 16 hunks (there were 15 photos but one had 2 hunks in it). #15 stumped everyone at first. Incorrect guesses included Eric Bana and Ken Olin. But Mr. 15 is Raoul Bova who appeared (all too briefly and all too clothed *g* ) in the movie Under the Tuscan Sun.

The correct answers are:

1. Brad Pitt (didn't you just love Troy?)
2. George Clooney (Now he's an Academy Award winner)
3. Eric Close (CBS's Without a Trace)
4. Viggo Mortensen (Did you see him in Hidalgo?)
5. Dean Cain (TV's Clark Kent/Superman)
6. Pierce Brosnan (My favorite 007)
7. Matt Damon and Ben Affleck (friends and business partners and both hunks)
8. James Denton (Desperate Housewives' plumber can work on my pipes any day)
9. Hugh Jackman (I'm willing to have his children)
10. Heath Ledger (Best cowboy portrayal by a non-American)
11. Harrison Ford (He still does it for me. He can raid my ark whenever he wants)
12. Gerard Butler (The Phantom of the Opera -- unbelievable performance!)
13. Johnny Depp (He was brilliant as Jack Sparrow, but he's also superb in Finding Neverland)
14. Patrick Dempsey (Grey's Anatomy and also Sweet Home Alabama)
15. Raoul Bova (check him out at his website and be prepared to drool)

Congrats again to Jennifer and thank you to everyone who played.

Elementary dear Watson

One hunk is stumping everyone under the sun.

Update 2

Still no winner! You can enter more than once.

Name that candy update

No winner yet! Keep trying!

Name That Candy!

So... I'm feeling better but still don't feel like trying to concentrate and write. However, I DO feel like concentrating on hunks. *g*

First person to email me and correctly identify all the hunks wins a pocket-size memo book and this nifty lipstick pen.