Saturday, September 30, 2006

Here We Go Again!


Stephanie Bond's Pass It On! copy of Kill The Competition is ready to find another reader.

Seriously. I know we just did this a couple of weeks ago, but Cheryl has finished the book and is sending it back for another go 'round.

See? I told you this was a good book. Here's what Cheryl had to say about it:

I loved, loved, loved this book! I couldn't read it fast enough, couldn't put it down till I had finished reading it. Ms. Bond did a great job with the twists and turns in the plot and I never had a clue who the murderer really was.

So it's time to find another blog friend. You have until AC's bedtime on Tuesday to email me and let me know you want to read this book and include your promise to either pass it on or return it to the blog. (problemchild@writingplayground.com). AC will draw a winner and I'll put it in the mail ASAP!

PC

Friday, September 29, 2006

Golden Heart-break


I’m feeling giddy today. That’s better than last night when I was nearly intolerable. DB was tired of me randomly saying “I’m a finalist” and giggling as we watched TV. Yes, I just found out that I have finaled in the On the Far Side Contest sponsored by the Fantasy, Futuristic and Paranormal RWA chapter. The contest is a quick one and I’ll find out how I did by Halloween. The judge for my category is an agent, which is good for me, since this book is the one that’s already with an editor. I'm prouder than usual about this because a paranormal final in a pararormal contest sponsored and judged by paranormal writers seems to have a certain legitimacy about it. I may be entirely wrong. Regardless, its not huge news, but a little victory to give me a little pick-me-up that I needed. At least, until I get the score sheets back...

Of course, the next biggie is the Golden Heart. The deadline is nearly upon us. This time last year, I was lamenting how I’d never get FE finished in time. Since then, although I missed GH, I not only finished, but have the full on a desk in NYC as we speak. The sequel is written (although not fully edited) and I’ve got three contest finals under my belt for it. It may just be ready for the GH this year. Just have to work up the nerve to spend the $50 and know I’m pretty much throwing it away.

I have no expectations that I will actually final, much less win, but I feel the need to enter anyway. I have grand dreams of sitting in the auditorium (in the VIP section!), clutching a battered piece of paper with my speech written on it in the hopes my name is called. My dress is fabulous, my shoes are perfect – sparkly, but sensible, so I don’t end up being ‘the girl that tripped.’ To see my picture and the title of my book up on the big screen while everyone claps. Then to hear my name called and walk up onto the stage to the loud music while the Playground and HOD cheering section gives the Wet Noodle Posse a run for their money. Having my idols sit in the audience and listen to me talk, ramble and cry for my allocated 30 seconds of glory. Having random strangers congratulate me at the dessert party as I strut around with my gold pin...

Back to reality...it’s a nice thought. I’ll throw my hat in the ring this year and see what happens. If FE were to sell soon (not holding my breath) this might be my last chance to win a GH. Then it’s on to the RITAs (definitely not holding my breath).

So, what about you? Are you planning to enter the Golden Heart or RITAs this year? Do you have your speech ready (admit it, you know you do...)? Care to share a few lines? :) If not, any other big contests on the horizon for you? For the lucky few that have made a GH or RITA speech - say anything stupid or forget someone important, a la Hillary Swank?

SP

(I'm not posting my revision challenge, because the numbers haven't changed from last week. So, phooey.)

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Procrastination Wins Again

Anyone who knows me understands that I'm a procrastinator. I've been one for a long, long time. And while it often frustrates me apparently not enough to make me change my stripes. Once again, it is time to write my blog and I have absolutely, positively nothing to contribute.

I'm hoping part of the reason nothing inspiring is coming to mind is because I've used up a large chunk of my creativity tonight writing on my book. Finally. After weeks of pulling teeth for one or two sentences (or nothing at all) the story has started working again. I'm not entirely certain why I haven't been able to write on this story because I love it. In fact, it's a book that I started about 1 1/2 years ago and put aside for another project. Perhaps the problem came in because I'm completely revamping it, starting over from scratch and adding several new layers to the plot and characterization. I think maybe I just needed to let the new angles stew for a bit.

So they've stewed and I'm writing. In fact, I'm 27 pages into a 60 page goal. If I buckle down and work at my normal rate I can have this rough draft (of the partial) finished in about a week. I don't know though, we've got a lot going on in the next several days. Maybe I should give myself a couple weeks. Of course, I said that about a month ago and look where that got me.

Instigator

P.S. I've spent the last 45 minutes trying to load the promised picture of the cute/ugly kitten. For some reason my computer and camera have decided they don't like each other anymore. I'll attempt to post it tomorrow...

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Taming the Beast

Sorry to be late. Issues with Blogger prevented me from publishing this last night



Some of you may be intimately familiar with this beast. It’s called the Internal, or as I prefer to call her, Infernal Editor. It’s that voice in your head that screams “No! That’s an adverb!” And “You’re telling and not showing again.” Or “Oops! You popped out of the heroine’s POV. Get back in her head.”

One of the first pieces of advice I read was to turn the Infernal Editor off and just write. Don’t think about rules or adverbs or show versus tell or POV or anything else. Just plop your fanny in the chair, put your hands on the keyboard and tell the story.

Ha! Easy for them to say. They don’t have the Infernal Editor from hell. Sitting at my PC is like flashing a neon sign at her that reads “Open for business. Come criticize and harass me.

Someone suggested using an AlphaSmart since it doesn’t have a delete key and using the backspace key is a bit of trouble. So I got a used AlphaSmart and it’s sure a handy gadget, but the keyboard and tiny screen still beckoned to the IE and she appeared. She belittled what I wrote, hijacked the backspace key and generally impeded my progress.

Then one day I was out having lunch alone at the Target snack bar and an idea for a story began developing. I pulled a small notebook from my purse (writer’s tip of the day: always carry a small notebook for you never know when inspiration will strike) and started scribbling down words and then phrases and finally the opening paragraphs of the story. And… ssshhhh… don’t tell her… but the IE didn’t appear. She apparently was over in the lingerie section enthralled by the new shipment of red bras and panties.

I wrote and I wrote and I wrote, and after I scribbled “The End” a few days later, I sat at the keyboard to transcribe the work into my word processor. Sure enough, true to form, she appeared, but this time she wasn’t quite so disruptive. The story was down in paper, albeit in a rough form, but as I typed IE gave me gentle suggestions about how to improve the story and where I needed to use dialogue rather than narrative. She was incredibly accurate about spots that didn’t work and proposed alternatives that were superb. After typing, I printed the document and IE and I read it over out loud, editing once more. When those edits were made on the computer document, the story was complete and ready for submission.

We all know that the Infernal Editor isn’t a separate entity. It’s YOU. Or rather, it’s me. It’s my brain wanting me to write the very best story I can. She really wants me to produce a top-notch piece of writing. Otherwise she’d stay at Target ogling the undies.

So what if I have a legal pad full of scribbling with footnotes and asterisks indicating spots where material is to be added? Who cares if there’s a big blank with a notation to Google the price of three-carat diamond rings or come up with a fictitious county in Texas? I’ve found the process that works for me (and the IE) and I’m sticking to it. It sure beats the year I sat helplessly (and hopelessly) in front of the computer monitor waiting for the words to flow. Strangely enough, she lets me write blogs on the PC. Maybe one day she’ll let me start writing first fiction drafts on the computer. But if not, at least I’m writing and having fun and enjoying every minute of this journey.

Do you have an Infernal Editor? Can you turn it off? Got any tips or tricks for everyone else?

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

My Baby is Ugly!!

No, not that baby. AC is as beautiful and amazing as ever. It’s my other baby. My book baby.
Okay, so maybe she isn’t ugly…but she’s just not pretty enough.

Yep, I’ve been rejected. That book that I stressed over back in the Spring trying to rewrite has come back, unwanted and rejected, ugly and unloved.

Sob. Sigh. Whimper. Sniff.

I’m not going to pretend that it doesn’t hurt. Of course it does. It hurts like hell. Rejection makes you want to crawl into the corner and sob. It’s frustrating. It’s demoralizing. It makes you question both your talent and your sanity.

And then you try again.

The Playfriends, my CP, Counselor Shelley and some Honorary Playfriends allowed me the weekend to wallow. As of Monday morning, they expected me back up and on the computer. The sympathy and cyber chocolate dry up after 48 hours, you know. After a weekend spent licking my wounds, I’m recovering. Now that the initial shock and horror have passed, I can look at the rejection letter beyond, “Thank you for submitting, but...”

You know what? There’s some comfort to be found in that rejection letter. Nowhere does the letter say, “You suck. Please find another hobby to occupy your time.” Instead, it said my writing was “quite engaging.” The letter was personal, giving me reasons why the book didn’t work (And none of them were, “You suck; please stop submitting to us”).

This book may have been rejected, but I wasn’t. I can submit something new. I don’t suck. An editor told me so.

I can live with that.

How do you deal with disappointment? Chocolate? Booze? Gut-wrenching sobs? Howling at the moon?

PC

~~Down, but not out~~

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Curling Up With A Good Book

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The past two weeks I've spent a lot more time reading than normal. Reading time has slipped by the wayside as I struggle to manage time for family, writing, work, and a whole host of other things. Sometimes I'd wish really hard to read, but remind myself that I'll never be published if I slack off instead of working on my own work-in-progress.

Secretly, between you and me, sometimes I'm afraid that if I read too much, I'll start avoiding my writing even more. Why? Well, reading is easy. I can get lost in a really good book with no effort whatsoever. Writing is hard. Enjoyable, rejuvenating, but hard, nonetheless. I know I'll never give it up, but that niggling worry is still tucked in the far reaches of my brain.

Then there is the inevitable feeling of inadequacy that can follow reading a really good book or particularly eloquent passage. Most of you have probably had these thoughts after finishing a satisfying read. "If that's what publishers are looking for, they'll never buy my book. I'll never be that (fill in the particular trait you envy the most)."

Whether by choice or time constraints, reading hasn't been high on my priority list for the past year. But in the past month or so, I've been drawn to books more and more, and managed to pick out some really good ones. I thought I'd share some of my most recent gems with you this morning.

Currently Reading: Real Women Don't Wear Size 2
by Kelley St. John

KILLER CURVES is right! I'm about 1/3 of the way through this book and forced myself to put it down to write my blog. I'm partial to this heroine because I'm short and... we'll just say well-endowed. Anyway, reading about Clarise's journey to "wildness" has been thoroughly entertaining and a wonderful rest after a weekend of marathon painting.

Recently Read:

Dream Man
by Linda Howard

Somehow I'd never gotten around to reading this book, though Linda's have become a "must read" since I got a hold of the first one. Wonderful book about a clairvoyant heroine and a detective hero. I love Dane Hollister because he is the typical male doing things the way he thinks they should be done and, guess what, he's wrong. But I love him anyway because he loves Marlie.

I also recently reread Shades of Twilight, one of my favorite Linda Howard books. Roanna Davenport's search for unconditional love moves me every time. Webb is just yummy, there's no way around it.

The Player
by Rhonda Nelson

I love Rhonda's books because they are very funny and shiveringly sexy! This hero gets put in the very position all "players" would kill to get out of: close proximity with a sexy woman, but no touching allowed. I can't wait to find out how the other two "Men Out of Uniform" meet their matches, as well.

Every Move She Makes
by Beverly Barton

Beverly's romantic suspense always keeps me guessing until the very last minute. This story is about the "good girl" who ends up falling for the town bad boy, a man her own father convicted of murder. Not only is the nemesis someone you'll never guess, you'll also be surprised by the complicated relationships throughout this book. A definite page turner.

A Hunger Like No Other
by Kresley Cole

I've read several paranormals lately, but this one kept me riveted until the very end. The conflicts are strong and compelling, but it was the romantic relationship that pulled me in. I have three words for you-Hot! Hot! Hot! But what can you expect with a bunch of vampires, valkyries, shapeshifters, and werewolves running around? And it has my favorite kind of heroine: a woman recognizing and learning to utilize her inner strength to overcome her particular battles. I can't wait for the next book to come out in October.

So, here's a little taste of my reading list. What about yours? What's the best read you've had your hands on lately? Does it inspire your writing or intimidate you?

Angel

Friday, September 22, 2006

The Tortoise & The Hare


I had an interesting horoscope today. No big revelations or anything like my last doom and gloom post for September, but it highlighted one of life's truths that I thought I would share. (BTW - no females betrayed me and DB still lives with me, so the horoscope, thankfully, was dead wrong.)

Anyway, from www.cainer.com : "The tale of the tortoise and the hare has a most misleading moral. It implies that the great advantage of being slow but steady is that eventually, you will overtake a faster but more easily distracted competitor. That may be true - but it is an almost irrelevant side-effect. When you go your own way, at your own speed, life becomes much more enjoyable - so much so that you no longer feel interested in petty matters of 'success' or 'failure'. If you are happy now, you are doing the right thing."

This as I race to finish my second book, hoping upon hope I'll get edits on the first one and will be ready to dive into the third one in the trilogy. My fifth, sixth, and seventh ones are dancing around in my mind, ready to get on paper. I'm such a "hare" that I dash through parts, then my mind gives out and I end up asleep under a tree while the tortoise trots past me.

Maybe I'm missing the point. Maybe, in this mad dash to publication, I'm missing out on things. I should be enjoying the writing process more, learning about what works for me and having some fun with it. I should be falling in love with my heroes and enjoying my heroine's journey as I paint it on the screen. I should be laughing at my own quirkiness as I read over something I've written. I should be more appreciative of the writing community that has embraced me. If I don't publish in the next year, they're not going to kick me out. The Playground and my RWA chapter have helped immensely in this quest, but I still need to work harder on slowing down and enjoying the ride. There really is no destination here, just a long drive with some interesting turns, curves and occasional speed bumps.

As far as writing goes - I AM happy. I am doing the right thing for me. I'm following my dream and one day, I might actually achieve it. I need to appreciate that because I'm so much closer than so many other people who just sit back and dream without doing. Maybe I just need to take time to smell the roses. My writing will probably be better for it.

So, are you a tortoise or a hare? Are you enjoying the journey?

SP

I know posting this zokumeter after this big revelation is sort of counter to what I've said, but I'm still proud of how I'm doing.

Revision Challenge

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
20 / 50
(40.0%)

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Guilty Pleasure

Okay, I admit it. I've been indulging myself this week in a guilty pleasure. Premier week on TV.
I've watched the hype over these shows for months. Have been hooked on some of them for years and am dying to find out the ending to those nail biting cliffhangers I was left with last May. And no, I'm not avoiding anything ;-D.

I started Monday with the new show, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. It stars Matthew Perry (yes, I'm from the Friends generation) and Bradley Whitford and comes from the masterminds behind West Wing. WW was one of my favorite shows for years - I never missed an episode. Anything those talented people are attached to is worth a look in my opinion. And I really enjoyed it. They definitely know how to set up some conflict that's for sure.

Deal or No Deal started back again this week too. I've been hooked on this one since it started as a mid-season replacement. I have to admit though, my love for the show waned when I didn't get picked at a casting call they held last spring :-).

Survivor, set up as very controversial this year, holds some interest as well. I'm a closet reality show junky but I justify my obsession with the thought that they're a study in human nature and an excellent avenue for character development. Sure I'm not planning on sticking my characters on an island and denying them food or fire....well maybe.

But the show I've been looking forward to the most starts tomorrow. Grey's Anatomy. I've been glued to this show from the moment it aired. There's just something about the characters, with all their flaws, weaknesses, and crazy hook-ups that pulls me in and leaves me wanting more. And the fact that everyone's in love with everyone else doesn't hurt that all important conflict quotient :-)

There are several others I'm interested in - Lost, Desperate Housewives (although this one is losing my interest fast), What about Brian.

So what shows are you looking forward to seeing this year? Which show do you think is going to flop and be canceled after the first month?

Instigator

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Truth is Stranger Than Fiction



Angel started something with her mention of cleaning. I decided to do some more straightening in my office because the clutter was beginning to win. In the process I came across a spiral notebook where I keep ideas for short stories. In some cases I just jotted the idea on a page. In other cases, I have a newspaper clipping. And many are print-outs of news articles I've seen online.

So since I have nothing else to blog about today, I thought I'd share from my "Truth is Stranger Than Fiction" Files.

1. Barge Capsizes When Passengers Ogle Nudes
This happened on a lake near Austin, Texas. A group was having a celebration at a nude beach called Hippie Hollow when a party barge went by. All the passengers rushed to one side to ogle and the barge tipped over. I'm not sure this could be turned into a story but it's definitely interesting. Serves those people right for gawking.

2. Jilted Bride Turns Wedding into Charity
A woman learned that her fiance was cheating and canceled the wedding. However, she couldn't get her money back for the reception so she turned it into a benefit for a local children's charity. She sent out invitations for drinks and a four-course dinner in hopes the guests would make a donation to the charity. This one has definite possibilities, especially if the cheated-on-bride puts the extra expenses on the cheating slob's credit card.

3. How a Donor Sperm Boy Traced His Father Using the Internet
In short, he used a genealogy website that has a DNA database. Not sure I could do this one since the magazine wants stories to be from a woman's POV. On the other hand, I could write it from the POV of the donor's wife who's surprised when a boy shows up on her doorstep asking to see his daddy. Surprise! Happy Father's Day! Could have some real emotional impact especially if they are dealing with infertility issues.

4. You Don't Have to Say 'Drop Dead' -- the Rejection Hotline Can Do It For You
If a guy just won't take the hint and keeps asking for your number, give him a special number and he'll get this message: "The person who gave you this number did not want you to have their real number. Maybe you suffer from bad breath, body odor or even both. Maybe you just give off that creepy, overbearing, psycho-stalker vibe. Maybe the idea of going out with you just seems as appealing as playing leapfrog with unicorns." This site is the brainchild of Jeff Goldblatt and has even spawned National "Get Over It" Day next March 9 (which is the halfway point between Valentine's Day and April Fool's Day). This is a favorite but I have to work out the angle from a woman's POV.

5. You've Got Mail: 'We're Letting You Go'
The pink slip has gone high tech and people are being "cyber-fired" instead of being told in person by their employers. Sad but true, but not sure there's enough for a story unless I can create some huge backstory for a woman and have her firing really unjustified. Maybe she slept with the boss. Or maybe her best office friend thinks she slept with the boss and spreads rumors since best friend has her own designs on the boss.

6. Praying for a Sale: Home Sellers Bury St. Joseph Statues
A statue of St. Joseph, patron saint of house hunters, buried upside down next to the "For Sale" sign can speed the sale of your house according to many. One website, stjosephstatue.com, expects a 250% increase in statue sales this year. Poor woman is about to be foreclosed on (maybe it's the one from #5 who was unjustly fired) and in a last-ditch effort she spends her last dollars on a St. Joseph statue to bury in the yard. Whammo! A contract comes through at higher than her asking price. Might work; might not. I actually did this last year when we had our house on the market. Whenour first contract fell through two days prior to closing, I figured I had nothing to lose. And as I skulked into the Catholic book store and asked for a St. Joseph statue, I was surprised when the woman showed me to a display of ones made just for this purpose. Another contract came through within weeks.

7. Woman Pleads Guilty in Fake Penis Case
A man urinated into a fake penis and gave it to a woman who planned to use the urine to pass a drug test. They stopped at a convenience store and asked the clerk to microwave it so the urine would be at body temperature. The clerk thought it was a severed organ and called the police. The woman plead guilty to disorderly conduct charges and the man agreed to pay to replace the microwave. This is one for the "dumb criminals" file and I don't think it's what the magazine is looking for. But I got a good laugh.

8. Viagra Works, but Chocolate Works Better
A Nigerian doctor claims that chocolate is not only safer than the little blue pill, but more effective. According to her, chocolate is not only the best antioxidant, but can also enhance your mood and sexual appetite. Oh yeah. A sex-deprived woman starts making her hubby a cup of hot cocoa before bed every night to kick-start his... well, you know. Or maybe she melts chocolate and uh... . Moving right along.

9. N.Y. Woman Wins $1 Million Lottery -- Again
With chanes estimates at 1 in 3,669,120,000,000 (that's 3 trillion), a New York woman has won her second million dollar lottery jackpot in four years. Great "second chance" story idea. She let her greedy relatives mooch off her the first time and ended up with zilch after two years. But this time, her first act is to hire an attorney, a financial planner and Dr. Phil, who teaches her how to say "Hell no!" to her leech of a sister.

10. Chicken Dies, Wife Shoots Husband
An Oregon woman shot her husband in the back after he killed her pet chicken. Officers were not certain if the man intended to shoot the chicken, but were certain the woman intended to shoot her husband. They were also certain both had been drinking. Another one for the "dumb criminals" file. But Jeff Foxwortyh might be able to work this into his routine. "If you try to shoot your wife's pet chicken after a few beers, you might be a redneck."


And in a last effort to prove that truth really is stranger (and a heck of a lot funnier) than fiction, here are the top ten unintentionally bad company URLs on the Internet. If the Playfriends kick me off the blog for this, will y'all pick me up, brush me off and set me back on the path of good behavior? Or maybe they'll just re-name me Problem Child II. *g*

1. A site called "Who Represents" where you can find the name of the agent that represents a celebrity. Their domain name is... wait for it... is

www.whorepresents.com

2. Experts Exchange, a knowledge base where programmers can exchange advice and views at

www.expertsexchange.com

3. Looking for a pen? Look no further than Pen Island at

www.penisland.net

4. Need a therapist? Try Therapist Finder at

www.therapistfinder.com

5. Then of course, there's the Italian Power Generator company...

www.powergenitalia.com

6. And now, we have the Mole Station Native Nursery, based in New South Wales, Australia, at

www.molestationnursery.com

7. If you're looking for computer software to interface with PCAnywhere, there's always

www.ipanywhere.com

8. Welcome to the First Cumming (Georgia) United Methodist Church. Their website is

www.cummingfirst.com

9. Then there's these art engineers and their wacky website

www.speedofart.com

10. Want to vacation in Lake Tahoe? Try their website at

www.gotahoe.com

So... got any good headlines or unintentionally bad website URLs to share?

Until next week,

The Playground Monitor

P.S. The Playground blog had its 18,000th hit yesterday!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Passing it on...

Congrats to Cheryl Strange of Ohio, the lucky person chosen by AC to get the Pass It On copy of Stephanie Bond's Kill the Competition.

Cheryl also hinted that she'd be willing to send it back for another round on the blog, so stay tuned! We may get to do this again!

Thanks for playing, everyone!

PC

PS--By the way, Smarty Pants updated the Playground with a new book review and an article from Counselor Shelley on the 15th. Check it out if you haven't already.

So many books

It’s said that John Milton read every book ever written during his life. I toss that factoid out to my students for the shock value alone, although I can’t really attest to the validity of that statement. I mean, I know there weren’t as many books back then, but it’s not like the Library of Congress had a comprehensive list or anything.

I’m thinking about Milton today because I’m currently reading two books I’ve never even looked at before: The Aeneid and Dante’s Inferno. No, this is not my idea of fun reading; I’ll be subbing for a friend later this semester while she’s out on maternity leave, and these two texts are part of the required curriculum. Somehow, though, these two classics never made it onto my reading list. The English Police are going to come take my degree away when word gets out that I skipped two major Western classics. Now I’m teaching myself and hoping the students don’t ask a lot of difficult questions. (And trust me, the rest of the texts I’ll be teaching will be from inside my comfort zone.)

While some folks will scorn me for skipping these texts (without any remorse until this moment), the fact of the matter is that there’s no way one person can read every single text ever written.

I’ve been acutely aware of this since I joined RWA and started hanging out with writers. Picture it: One minute you’re conversing nicely with the stranger you just met over a cup of coffee— the next, you realize you’re talking to a best-selling, multi-published author. You’re embarrassed enough that you didn’t recognize her name or face, but, even worse you can’t name a single book she’s written, much less say you’ve read one and speak intelligently about it.

There are so many books published every year, there’s no way I could read them all even if I tried. And if I tried, I’d never get anything else done and I’d probably go blind (like Milton did).

So many books; so little time. When I think of all the books I could be reading, it really irritates me that I’m wasting valuable reading time on stuff as boring as the Aeneid and Inferno*.

Take a look at your To Be Read pile. How high is it? Are there any books by new (to you) authors in there? Is there a book that every one of your friends has read that you haven’t yet (or possibly have zero interest in reading)?

How do you narrow down your book choices from everything out there to the books on your To Be Read pile?

PC— off to purchase Cliff’s Notes.

*If those are two of your all-time favorite books, I apologize. Different strokes, ya know. I’m sure you’re a very interesting person otherwise.

DON’T FORGET: You have until Amazing Child’s bedtime (8:30 Eastern/7:30 Central) to put in your request for the Pass It On copy of Kill the Competition. I’ll announce the winner later tonight and put the book in the mail tomorrow.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Cleaning Frenzy




I spent the weekend steamrolling from task to task, getting quite a bit accomplished, only to roll right past blogging. It just wasn't on my mind. So this morning will be some random thoughts from the past weekend that may or may not inspire you, but as I tell my husband, "If you want to know what is going on with me, check out my blog."

We're getting our house ready to put on the market. Those of you who have sold a house before know what a pain this is. Ours needs more work than most, or maybe it just seems that way to me because it's ours. Anyway, our current project is getting the living room ready to paint a more neutral shade than the Ocean Green that currently graces the walls. So we moved furniture, washed walls, and decluttered. My feet are killing me, but we should be ready to paint next weekend. Can the Playfriends say Painting Party? (Just kidding! I'm saving y'all for when we paint the OUTSIDE of the house. Mwahahaha!)

I discovered something really interesting during this entire process. The more I decluttered, the freer I felt. Now, I recently heard Problem Child give a workshop on Writing Process, during which she discussed different learning styles. I'm a visual learner. One thing she mentioned is that, for visual learners, clutter around the work area can stifle creativity. (I know this sounds rambling, but I'm going somewhere, just hang with me.) This process of cleaning out my living room, where my desk just happens to reside, seems to have helped the stifled feeling my work has had lately.

This occurred to me on Saturday night. After hours and hours on my feet, I took the evening off and worked on my revisions. They flowed like they haven't in quite a while. Coincidence? Maybe, maybe not. Yesterday, I wrote some more, desperate to get this proposal in the mail soon. Again, the words just came, visuals appeared, and the characters made much more sense.

This could be totally random... It could be the result of some justified time away from my work... This chapter just might be a whole lot better than the previous ones... Or it might be that I freed up some constraints I'd been wrestling with by cleaning out the clutter... Hmm.... Will we ever know?

So, do you find it helps to straighten up your workspace or is this just a form of procrastination for you?

Angel

Revision Challenge:


Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
10 / 50
(20.0%)

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Adventures in Babysitting




I remember now why they give babies to young people. We've had our three-month-old granddaughter for about twenty-four hours. She's been great except for a little fussy spell this evening. I'm ready to abandon my usual writing-after-midning routine and hit the sack. There's something about being ever-vigilant that's really tiring. We've made it through fixing bottles and changing diapers and even giving her a bath. She and I watched football on TV this afternoon while Papa was out (War Eagle!) And I correctly remembered how to get her stroller unfolded and we took a walk this afternoon. My heavens but that carseat/infantseat/strollerseat weighs a bazillion tons! If I had to lug Miss Chunk around in that all day I'd have biceps like the Incredible Hulk. Somehow I don't remember babies and their paraphernalia being so heavy. Well... they do say that the mind is the first thing to go. *g*

*yawn*

Yep, this is definitely for the young.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Pass it on... Again!


Back in June, I offered up Stephanie Bond's Kill the Competition as part of her Pass it On! promotion.

To recap, Stephanie gave me a copy of her book to read and pass on to a friend. That friend would read it and pass it on to someone else to discover Stephanie and her books. Readers also get to register on her website to win prizes.

After reading the book (and loving it), I ran an announcement here on the blog and passed the copy along to a Blog Friend.

That Blog Friend, Ana, has finished reading the book and returned it to me so we can Pass It On...Again!

So here's how it works. Email me (problemchild@writingplayground.com) by Tuesday afternoon and let me know you want to read Stephanie's book. You also have to promise--in writing--that you will Pass It On when you're finished (either to a friend who hasn't read Stephanie before or back to me for another round on the blog).

I'll let Amazing Child draw names for the lucky Blog Friend before she goes to bed Tuesday night and drop it in the mail on Wednesday.

Any questions?

PC

(Oh, and if you aren't familiar with Stephanie and how fabu she is, check out the interview in the Sandbox from June.)

Tales of the Lazy


"Ambition should be made of sterner stuff..." - Marc Antony, Julius Caesar

I’ve always had more than my fair share of ambition. Constantly ready to tackle a new task, finish it, and move onto the next thing. This goes back practically to birth. My mom loves telling people about the time I told my 2nd grade teacher she was wasting my time. That I was just going to test out of school and start college where I’d actually LEARN something. Couldn’t imagine something like that coming out of my mouth. :)

But I’ve always been like that. It wasn’t something I heard from someone else and repeated. Just 100% Pure Smarty Pants. I always had an answer for what I wanted to be when I grew up, complete with a 20 step plan on how I was going to get there. What college, what degree... had it planned. I even questioned the adults around me about what they were doing with their lives. Cute kid, huh? Anyway, I hit college full force. Finished in 2.5 years with summer school and 18 credit semesters. Hit grad school. Finished it in a year while working full time. I was in a hurry. I was going to save the world. Go to law school. Take on Washington. Blah, blah, blah...

My idealistic little heart got crushed several years ago by a tractor-trailer called 'reality.' I was disillusioned by the political process and decided that was setting myself up for years of pain and frustration if not ultimate failure. Combined with reaching a point in my life where it wasn’t so easy to achieve measurable goals – unless I wanted a PhD or something, I felt lost for a while. I spent time wondering what the point of my life really was. Billions of people get up every day and just live their lives without some greater purpose. I could do it too.

So then what? I decided to pursue a dream I’d had but hadn’t given much real consideration. I’d written stories alone in my room since I was old enough to type. I decided I wanted to be a writer. (Yes, as though the road to publication wouldn’t be as painful or frustrating as politics...) It gave me a new way to achieve goals – finishing books, even if the ultimate goal of publishing (Yes, I know that’s not a real goal because it’s out of my control) was never achieved.

Reading Rocki’s blog this week about losing the joy...I have to thank her for being honest. I know everyone goes through this, either privately, or my venting to dear Playfriends. I haven’t lost the joy yet but I can see how easily it can happen. I’ve had a couple dents in my joy with rejections and bad contest results. Mostly, my joy is in tact. I do, however, go through long periods where I lose the ambition. I wrote DD in 6 weeks. It flowed out of me. Everything was great. Then revisions came and I just lost interest. Without the deadline, the editor or agent breathing down my neck...there’s nothing to push me when I am no longer pushing myself.

I fear this declaration might get me in trouble (ie. Last winter when I was forced to write 1 pg a day and post it so everyone knew I did it) but this time, I don’t think I’m alone. I think several of us are in the can’t/don’t/won’t phase.

When you can’t gather the energy to get off of the couch, much less craft a piece of literary brilliance, what do you do for a kick in the pants?

SP

(PS. Speaking of ugly-cute pets, ie. Instigator's post last week, I have posted my latest guilt adoption. His name is Buddy and we 'caught' him on Sunday.)



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Thursday, September 14, 2006

Not Another Day Off!

Sweet Pea has a vacation day from school tomorrow. That nebulous thing called a teacher in-service day. As a child I distinctly remember loving these days because there wasn't anything else scheduled. No trips to visit family. No parties. No parades. No big family meal I had to help prepare (okay I really didn't do much but...) Just me, my friends and an entire day to do whatever we wanted - or nothing at all.

Now, I dread 'em :-) Teacher in-service means I not only have to go to work (because somehow my bosses didn't get the memo) but I have to bring both the girls with me. It isn't fun for any of us.

What I don't understand is where all this time off is coming from! Sweet Pea's been in school for just over a month and already this is her second full day off (she's had a couple half days in there too). I don't ever remember getting this much vacation time from school. Maybe if I had I wouldn't have felt the need to skip - from complete mental exhaustion you understand - when I got into high school. Yeah right.

She has several days off day off next month for fall break (something we never got) not to mention two half days for teacher conferences. A couple holidays in Nov (including Thanksgiving) and then a couple weeks off in Dec. Seriously, how does the school expect me to get anything done if they're constantly letting her out of there!?! :-) I remember school being more like a jail - complete with padlocked gates - than fun. I suppose I shouldn't complain, she loves going to school. Looks forward to it every single morning. Hmm, I wonder if that has anything to do with the fact that she's in kindergarten?

Instigator

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Winners!

The lucky commenter winning a copy of THRILL ME TO DEATH is Kimberly Perry! Email me your snail mail address so I can get your book to you.

And Crystal Broyles was the first to correctly answer that Rocki cracked the code of romantic suspense by playing Barbies. Sounds strange, I know. Well, not exactly since we're talking about Rocki. *g* You can read all about it here.

What it Was, Was Football -- Alabama Style

I'll wrap up business from yesterday first. Later this morning I'll draw a name from all the commenters and that person will receive an autographed copy of Rocki's latest book THRILL ME TO DEATH.

And just cause we've had so much fun on the merry go thingy with Rocki (she never puked once!), I'm going to offer a second copy to the first person who can tell me how Rocki cracked the code of romantic suspense. Email me with the correct answer.



We now return to your regularly scheduled programming.






It was November.

Now where I grew up in North Carolina (you know -- it’s one state up and one state over to the right), November is just that month that contains Veteran’s Day, Thanksgiving, and thirty of the fifty-four shopping days prior to Christmas. But as I quickly learned, November in Alabama holds an entirely different meaning.

Despite telling my husband that I’d sooner move to hell than to Alabama, I found myself with my bags packed and the car headed in the direction of a town called Huntsville. The first weekend, we decided to orient ourselves to our new hometown. In 1973, The Mall was the place to shop. Parkway Place Mall was a strip center called Parkway City, and life as we know it today pretty much stopped south of Airport Road and west of Jordan Lane. Whitesburg Drive was a two-lane street, there was a drive-in theater where it intersected with Airport Road, and fast food had not invaded the culinary scene.

Our first stop was The Mall, which sat at the intersection of University Drive and U.S. Highway 231, also known as the Parkway. In its heyday, The Mall was a bustling shopping center with two anchor stores, and on any given Saturday it was full of all types, checking out the latest fashions, searching for the newest bestseller, or just hanging out at the center-court fountain. However, on this particular Saturday, something was occurring that we, as “foreigners,” were unaware of. This was the day of the annual Iron Bowl -- better known in layman’s terms as the “Auburn-Alabama” (or “Alabama-Auburn” depending on where your loyalties lie) football game.
Our first stop was a small clothing store that catered to men. We strolled through the store, stopping at various racks and displays, showing some interest in several items. We were never approached by a salesperson.

‘They’re all just busy at the moment,’ we told ourselves. Just then, a cheer arose from behind the sales counter and we noticed all the store personnel gathered around a television set. Peering closer, we saw a football game. And then we stepped right in the dog doo by interrupting the camaraderie and asking for assistance. If looks could kill, several of Huntsville’s finest young men and women would be serving life terms. And then we waded farther in by asking who was playing.

Maybe it was the stupid looks on our faces that gave us away, but some poor soul finally clued us in. “Hells bells, y’all. This is the Iron Bowl -- the biggest football rivalry in the great state of Alabama,” he explained before turning back to the television in rapt attention.

Iron Bowl? Football? Remember, we came from North Carolina -- the basketball land of Dean Smith and Jim Valvano, the Atlantic Coast Conference, and Michael Jordan. Football? These folks were getting this riled up about a football game? Shaking our heads, we left the store, only to encounter the same madness in every other establishment in The Mall. Shucks, it didn’t take long to figure out we could have shoplifted the contents of the entire mall while that game was being played, and no one would have been the wiser. Waving the white flag of surrender, we returned home, confident that the day’s experience had been a fluke, and that life would return to normal the next day.

Yeah! Sure! Just like life returns to normal after an atomic bomb is dropped or man walks on the moon. “The Game” was rehashed in a bazillion newspaper columns and a gazillion sports broadcasts, discussed in Sunday School classes across the Tennessee Valley, and Sunday morning quarterbacks replayed it for another week. Marriages were threatened and friendships jeopardized over the Tide and the Tigers.

Fast-forward thirty-three years. We moved away from the Tennessee Valley for several years in the mid-seventies, but chose to return here because we felt it’s one of America’s best-kept secrets. The Mall disappeared years ago, Whitesburg Drive is a major thoroughfare, the drive-in is gone, and civilization extends well south and west of Airport Road and Jordan Lane.

But every year, on a Saturday in November, the month of Veteran’s Day and Thanksgiving, and right smack in the middle of the Christmas shopping season, hordes of fans still gather in front of television sets to watch the Iron Bowl -- still the biggest football rivalry in Alabama, and something bordering on religion for many. And while we still claim our North Carolina roots, I now have a sweatshirt bearing the logo of one of those universities and a coffee mug proclaiming me a University Mom sits proudly on my desk. And I’ll never forget that day when I learned that what it was, was football -- Alabama style.

Are you a football fan? If not football, are you crazy over some other sport?

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Roxanne St. Claire Guest Blog


Contest: One lucky Friend of the Playground wins an autographed copy of Roxanne's latest romantic suspense, Thrill Me to Death. Make comments and ask questions in the comments tail to be eligible.


I e-met Rocki via the Writing Round Robin at eHarlequin in 2004, which was timed to coincide with her first release from Silhouette Desire. Rocki was a frequent participant in the feedback thread on the eHQ message boards. She was fun and she was supportive of struggling writers. And she sent me two of her books to review. One was that first Desire and the other was one of her single title releases called French Twist. I read the Desire posthaste because I am a total Desire-aholic. The single title sat on my shelf for five months until I decided to take it on the plane with me to RWA in Dallas. I got halfway through on the trip out, attended Rocki's workshop, stalked... er... met her and spent a little one-on-one time with her, fell in love with her and read the remainder of French Twist on the plane ride home, literally turning the last page as the plane landed. Then I scrambled to find a copy of her first release, Tropical Getaway, and... My name is Marilyn and I'm a Rock-aholic.

She's an awesome romance writer who always delivers a good story whether it's category romance, chick lit or a single title romantic suspense. And she's a terrific friend, too.


Welcome Rocki! We're so excited to have you here...



The Toughest Question I’ve Ever Been Asked ….

Move over, players, Rocki’s here…and she loves this playground!!

Hi everybody! Thank you for letting me climb onto your swingset for the day. I am delighted to be here at the Writer’s Playground. My dear friend Marilyn invited me over and I truly hope that I can give you all a little push from behind and maybe some balance on the teeter-totter that is our business.

Marilyn asked me to write about anything of interest to aspiring authors, be it craft, writer’s life, industry or the secret handshake that will guarantee a short path to publication. All right, let’s do them all. Quickly. Craft: read and write. Writer’s life: spring for a massage whenever possible. Industry: constant state of flux. Secret handshake: yeah, right.

In truth, I decided that today I would take a shot and try to answer the toughest question I’ve ever been asked.

About six months ago, my local RWA chapter hosted an “Ask The Author” night, putting four of us in the hot seat to answer anything. I settled into my spot on the panel, looked out a sea of my dear friends and loving faces, certain that no one in this group could hit me with a question that could stump, embarrass or confuse me. One of my chaptermates, a woman I’ve watched work diligently into the PRO ranks – even after she suffered the sudden, unexpected loss of her husband and life transformed her into a single mother with no warning – looked directly at me and asked, “Rocki, have you lost the joy?”

Naturally, I handled that with a great deal of dignity and complete professionalism. I burst into tears.


I had lost the joy. And, worse, everyone could see it. How can this be, they asked. You’re published! You’re multi-published by multi-publishers, contracted for the foreseeable future, writing for a living, basking in the glow of a name that is bigger than a title on the cover of award nominated books. WHY AREN’T YOU HAPPY?

Because in every writer’s world, be they pubbed, unpubbed, epubbed, prepubbed, postpubbed or ├╝berpubbed, there are dark days. I’m not talking about museless afternoons where the words don’t come, or a week where life interrupts the flow of writing, or even the two week write-strike brought on by some nitwit judge who denied you a contest final because you used the word “eyes” instead of “gaze” and your margins were off a quarter inch . No, I’m talking about months (or worse) when the joy of writing is suddenly, inexplicably and totally sucked right out of you. It happens to all of us, no matter where we are on the publication path.



The hardest part about my winter of discontent was that I am not, in any way, shape or form, an unhappy person. Optimist is an understatement on my list of character traits. My glass isn’t half-full; it’s overflowing with the good stuff, bubbling with delight and must be shared with the entire table. I’ve been accused of being phony and I remember that indictment hurt: I’m not a phony. I really am a happy, enthusiastic, optimistic person. But happiness and enthusiasm and optimism suddenly disappeared from my work and it was scary.


This was not depression. This was not a moment of malcontent. I simply hated what I was doing for a living and couldn’t figure out why. There were lots of factors that started it: disenchantment with certain business partnerships, an inability to agree on a story with one of my publishers as the deadline grew closer, disappointing royalty statements, and, of course, a couple of characters who just couldn’t leap off the page like they were supposed to. I wrote a book that nearly killed me. Actually, “rewrote a book” is more accurate – for every page forward I produced, I had to go back and revise the six that came before. When I managed to finish and send that one in, I instantly started another. This one had an entirely different set of problems – ones that stemmed from the line, the publisher, and a third party who placed limitations and constraints that chafed. It wasn’t easy, it wasn’t fun, it wasn’t particularly profitable and it sure as hell wasn’t anyone’s dream job during those months.


My face must have shown the strain, my shoulders slumped, my frown lines deepened. Maybe I made one too many sarcastic comments in the chapter meeting, maybe I rolled my eyes when someone waxed poetically about the thrill of a good rejection. God, I hope not. But, my joylessness was obvious to all.

I couldn’t answer the question, except to acknowledge that it was a wake-up call. I realized that the loss of “enjoyment” in my career scared the life out of me. Being who I am – a woman of action, not reaction – I decided that I had to figure out where the joy was hiding, and how I might get it back where it belonged: in my heart.

First, I asked myself the hardest question of all: Do I still want to write? No matter how I cut it, no matter how I stacked the “cons” (the pile was high), the answer was YES. Then I looked at what was bothering me and how I could change it. I made some major changes in my career, none of which was easy, and all were a little scary. Then, I made some demands – created whitewater where there had never been any, asked for some things I’d never thought I could get. And finally, I dug to my deepest creative center and challenged myself to come up with my biggest and best idea for the next book.


Then some magic happened. I clicked with a new agent. The proposed idea was approved in 35 minutes. The story began to pour out of me. The publisher sent a cover so perfect it left me speechless (no mean feat, I assure you). In the meantime, the book that almost killed me was published to some lovely, strong reviews. (It’s Thrill Me To Death.) The other one that almost killed me sailed through with no revisions and ended up being one I love (Thunderstruck - not out yet). And best of all, I began to turn on my computer with anticipation and excitement each morning, not dread. With joy, not fear or boredom or discontentment.

I wrote and wrote, falling more deeply in love every day with my hero, my story, and my job. And I sent an email to my chaptermate and I thanked her for asking me the most difficult of personal questions, and forcing me to make some tough decisions.


Make no mistake – the dark days of a writing career will come. They will arrive with thunder and clouds and they are going to drench you with doubt and dismay. They may take the shape of a difficult book, a contentious relationship, a sickeningly bad cover, a shocking rejection, an inexplicable contest score, a lousy paycheck, a poorly motivated hero, a boring manuscript. They all might happen at the same time. No might about it: they WILL happen at the same time.

Your job is to go back to the basics: Ask yourself why you write. Conjure up that fresh, high-concept idea. Force yourself to finish the hard books. Change the things you can – even if it means ending a relationship, walking away from a critique partner, or saying no to a volunteer project that cuts into your writing time. Take control and take action and recognize that this happens to everyone. Chocolate, wine and friends are invaluable at this time, too. And, of course, a good book!


I believe that knowing how to coax a little bliss back into your work is far more valuable in the long run than craft tips, industry info or a even the secret handshake. I believe that the strong survive, but the joyous thrive.

I’m playing here all day, or longer, if you like. Shoot me questions, comments, vents, complaints, fashion tips and gossip. And THANK YOU so much for inviting me to the playground!

xoxo
Rocki
www.roxannestclaire.com



P.S. from the Playground Monitor

Thrill Me to Death was released in July of this year and is available at bookstores. The Intern Affair from Silhouette Desire is being released today. Rocki also has two upcoming holiday anthologies. I'll Be Home for Christmas from Pocket Books will be released on October 1 and A NASCAR Holiday will be available from HQN a month later.





P.P.S.
Someone asked about Rocki's latest Bullet Catcher hero. Well, here's Johnny! Johnny Christiano, that is, the hero of TAKE ME TONIGHT. According to Rocki, he cooks. I agree. He makes my blood boil. *g*



Monday, September 11, 2006

Another Playground Winner!

I folded up all the names of the entrants (everyone got it right, BTW) on little pieces of paper and dumped them out on the floor. Since I don't have a kid, I sat and waited for my cat Jell-o to start batting at one of them. :)

Congrats goes out to: Maureen Emmons of Yardley, Pennsylvania! Maureen correctly guessed that Sandbox guest Lori Handeland got food poisoning the night she won her RITA for best paranormal in 2005. Maureen has won a copy of Lori's winning book, Blue Moon, and Linda Fallon's 2004 winner, Shades of Midnight.

Maureen - email me your full address so I can ship you your prize!
SP

Roxanne St. Claire

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COMING TOMORROW!!!

Tomorrow on the Writing Playground Blog, we'll have guest blogger Roxanne St. Claire, bestselling author of heart-stopping romance and suspense.

In addition to her blog, Roxanne will be answering questions posted in the comments. So give her a big welcome and ask away!!!

Sunday, September 10, 2006

9/11/06

I've been worrying about today's blog for two weeks, ever since I realized that I would be the Playfriend who had to blog on the 5th anniversary of 9/11. What should I do? Ignore it? That didn't seem quite right, when images of today's significance will be everywhere we turn. Yet I wasn't sure I would have words equal to the importance of the event. I'm one small person, far removed from New York City. What new insight could I possibly offer about such a terrible tragedy?

I'm sure all of you remember, as I do, how you heard what happened that fateful morning. While each person processed the events, they inevitably focused on whatever part of it held the most significance for them. For me, it wasn't global politics or war, but the impact of death on the family and friends of those lost that day or soon thereafter. Praying for spouses who'd lost their soul mates, children who'd lost parents, parents who'd lost children. That's what I thought about as the images were played over and over on my television screen.

Tragedy can be overwhelmingly personal. Though I've never (thankfully) been through something so horrific, there have been times in my life that I've been overwhelmed by grief and pain. Before I had Drama Queen, I suffered through two devastating miscarriages. During the first one, I reconnected with romance, something I hadn't had time to read since I was a teenager. My first miscarriage ended up being a long, drawn out process. I won't go into the details, but the result was a month-long recuperation spent in bed or on the couch. Along with the physical weakness came depression and an attempt to make emotional sense of what had happened.

An elderly couple lived across the street from us at that time. Somehow the woman must have heard what had happened, for she showed up one day at the door. Her gift to me was a big box of used romance books she said she needed to get rid of since they were moving. Though I can't remember her name, I'm forever grateful to her. Those books offered me escape from the depression and pain, entertainment through long bouts of insomnia, and smiles when there were few in my life.

Romance is about the happily ever after. It offers the glimpse of hope, the wish thrown out into the universe to experience a unique love and connection with another human being. It keeps us from feeling alone.

So if this day or any day is a rough one for you, I pray you can escape for just a little while and find comfort in a story you enjoy. For those of you who write, what better reason to continue? Through your stories you bring love and hope to the world. There can't be a better reward than that.

Angel

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Noteworthy News


The Writing Playground would like to extend its sincerest congratulations to fellow Heart of Dixie RWA author Peggy Webb. Her novel, Driving Me Crazy, published by Harlequin Next, has been nominated for a 2007 Pulitzer Prize.





From the book recommendation section at The Writing Playground

Mystery writer Maggie Dufrane is forty-one and facing a reversal of roles in her life. Her mother has just been diagnosed with congestive heart failure and the doctor has given her anywhere from one to seven years to live. So Maggie, divorced and currently jobless, moves back into the family homestead to look after her Mama. Then her sister Jean drops a bombshell and suddenly life is driving Maggie crazy – literally and figuratively. She’s the only one who actually drives a car, so she’s chauffeur to both the special women in her life.

But soon she discovers a special man too. He’s Joseph “Rainman” Jones, DJ at the local radio station. He takes a shine to Maggie and vice versa. Between dealing with her mother, her sister and this new man in her life, Maggie’s takes a big, wide turn in the journey of life and this southern belle goes from being a wilting blossom to a steel magnolia.

Peggy Webb has drawn deep from her Mississippi roots and written a story that any southern female Baby Boomer can relate to – the changing relationship between aging parents and their children, the curve balls that life throws at us and the fact that you’re never too old for love and laughter.

Contest!

Ok, blog readers - as you may have read yesterday, we are gone all day today at a writing workshop. We don't want it to be too quiet around here, so here's the first of the paranormal blog contests for this month.

Riddle me this, Batman:

What unanticipated ailment struck Lori Handeland on the night she won her RITA? (Read her interview in the Sandbox for the answer!)

Email me at smartypants@writingplayground.com with your answer. I will select a winner from the correct entries. The winner will receive...

A copy of the 2004 Parnormal RITA winner Shades of Midnight by Linda Fallon (autographed) and the 2005 Paranormal RITA winner Blue Moon by Sandbox guest Lori Handeland!

Good luck!

Friday, September 08, 2006

Eeyore Syndrome



I'm not sure what to blog about today. The topics this week have varied from black eyed peas to cat vomit, so my options are endless. Unfortunately, my brain is fuzzy after a rapid revision, an ongoing revision challenge and an upcoming workshop for our RWA chapter that for some reason, I volunteered to coordinate. I've been sitting on my couch watching Murder She Wrote and stuffing colored folders with handouts. Of course, I noticed my copier skipped a few pages that I'll have to run and plug in later. Yay.

My phone keeps ringing as people call to ask me questions about the workshop. I guess the press releases didn't mention how much I dislike talking on the phone. Oh well, it must be done. The ringing just puts my brain on edge every time I hear it like an air raid siren. High Alert! Under the desk I go! And it isn't as though things are going poorly with my plans. Everything is fine. All speakers confirmed, schedule distributed, handouts copied, folders purchased, caterer coordinated, setup faxed to the facility, volunteers coordinated... I guess its just my catastrophizing. Somehow everything will go wrong and it will be my fault. Or nothing will go wrong and I'll make myself crazy waiting for "it" to happen.

What is "it" exactly? Oh, let's see...one of the speakers has a tragedy and cancels at the last second. I missed a handout in the packet. Lost a registration. Put out some sort of communication that slights someone in one fashion or another - leaving off a name, spelling it wrong, you name it. The facility either never gets or ignores my setup instructions. I'm sure there's more that I've forgotten. Probably better that way.

Sigh. I hate the impending sense of doom - I call it the Eeyore Syndrome. A dark cloud following me around when all other indications are for good weather. I can't shake it. Even my horoscope was horrible for this month. Last night or today, a close female friend(s) is supposed to betray me and I'll end our friendship. Later this week, if I live with someone, they're going to move out. But then it told me not to fret cause I'll meet someone new around the 22nd. (Don't tell DB!) UGH! Then I read another horoscope for the weekend and it said I would be re-evaluating my friendships and what I gain from them. He seemed to think it was a good thing, but that just contributes to the impending sense of doom. I don't put money or too much faith on any of this, but I like to be mentally prepared just in case. I'm trying to be really nice to all my female friends this week so they don't have cause to do whatever they're plotting. (Love ya'll!) :)

You ever have the Eeyore Syndrome? Waiting for the shoe to drop? The friend to turn? The project to fall apart? Waiting for everyone you know to wake up and realize you're a yutz? For your spouse to decide your a control freak or fat or whatever? All with no provocation whatsoever? Share your drama with me and let me know how it turned out. Hopefully it was nothing, so if it was, say so, so I'll feel better.

SP

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Crazy Cat Lady Part Deux

My husband came home Saturday with a kitten. Or rather, he sent my 5 year old in clutching the dang thing under her chin and uttering an almost incoherent stream of begging. He then proceeded to tell me that he told our animal-adoring child that if I said no they'd have to take it back. If I said no. Yeah, sure, make Mom the bad guy. The mangy thing was in my house. There was no way I was getting it back out again.

And okay, considering I already have 3 you might be asking, "What's one more?" I'll tell you.

My darling husband deposited the thing (which was filthy and truly ugly) along with my daughter in our den and then promptly disappeared into our bedroom to take a nap. Now, he did take the girls out that morning so I could sleep until 9 and read until 11 so I'm not begrudging him the nap - he really deserved it. What I do begrudge is the fact that as soon as he woke up he disappeared again with the girls leaving me with the thing - which promptly spent the next several hours yaking on everything (including my bed). The poor little mite stank to high heaven, was shaking like a little leaf, and truly felt miserable. And I got to clean up after it and cuddle it in a towel until they got home. We gave it a bath (probably not the best idea in hindsight but it really did reek). By Saturday night DH and I honestly thought the little thing was going to die. It just laid there in a miserable heap, dehydrated, wouldn't eat, wouldn't drink - not even the goat milk we put in a bottle for him. We finally did coax him to down several pieces of kitten food. We hand fed him every hour for several hours until we were sure he wasn't going to get sick again, then set a bowl of water next to him and let him curl up and sleep.

By the morning he was a completely different animal. Now he's running around, chasing his tail, being a real kitten. He's still very skinny (we don't think the people who had him were feeding him anything just letting him fend for himself outside) and still ugly in an adorable, kinda cute way. Sweet Pea named him Garrett - a name that's practically bigger than he is. In a few short days he's already become a member of the family. Dang it! Just what I needed one more four legged animal to follow me around. Seriously, there's not enough room in the bed at night for DH, me, the cats and now the kitten. Hmm, maybe his punishment will be buying me a bigger bed ;-D

Instigator

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Reasons Why I Live in the South

Since my last southern post was so popular, why not continue with the theme??? I'm on vacation til tomorrow so one of the other Playfriends is posting this on my behalf.




The term South is defined as the region of the United States lying south of the Mason-Dixon line. That is just a weensy bit vague, so how about this one? The region of the United States including Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Missouri, Arkansas, Florida, West Virginia, and eastern Texas.

Now that we know where the South is, I'd like to expound a bit on why I live here. For one, I was born and raised in the South. North Carolina to be exact. For four years, from 1976 to 1980, I ventured outside the South because of my husband's job. We ventured FAR from the South to Frankfurt, Germany, where we were unusual not only because we were Americans, but because we were Americans with a southern accent. I remember being asked to speak just so folks could listen to my accent. Depending on how nicely they asked, and whether they were snickering when they asked, I'd comply. Of course in London, I did the same thing -- asked questions of shopkeepers and folks on the street just to hear the different British accents.

When we left Germany, we were given the choice to return to any place in the US where my husband's agency had a branch office. This included Washington, DC, Boston, Chicago, Denver, San Francisco, Seattle, Atlanta and Dallas, along with a number of towns with satellite offices. They also offered us another four-year overseas stint in Panama. Where did we choose? Huntsville, Alabama. We'd lived here for a year prior to our overseas move and felt it was a great place to live and raise a family. We've turned down several chances to move to other places because we love it here, though we are pondering relocating somewhere else when we retire. The places we've considered, however, are still in the South.

So why, other than my husband's job, do I live in the South? In no particular order...


1. Southern hospitality - an undefinable quality, but you know it when you've experienced it
2. Fried anything
3. Sweet tea
4. Sweet potato pie
5. Black-eyed peas (remind me to tell my black-eyed pea story)
6. Country ham
7. Gravy -- red-eye and sawmill
8. Grits
9. Quaint phrases
10. Peaches and peach cobbler
11. Pecans
12. The Florida panhandle beaches
13. Magnolias and dogwoods
14. Barbeque
15. Crawdads
16. Peanuts
17. Fried green tomatoes (I felt these deserve their own entry cause they're so good)
18. Corn on the cob
19. Sunday lunch with the family
20. Biscuits
21. Shagging at Myrtle Beach -in case you're a Yankee reading this, that's a dance ;-)
22. Fried pies (again deserving of its own entry)
23. Yard sales and flea markets
24. The Grand Ole Opry
25. The Smoky Mountains
26. Kudzu (well, not really, but it IS a definitive part of the South)
27. The Blue Ridge Parkway
28. Charleston and Savannah
29. That religion called college football and/or basketball
30. Front porches with swings and rocking chairs
31. Drives through the country on Sunday afternoon (not so common nowadays with the current price of gasoline
32. Jeff Foxworthy
33. Hot'lanta
34. Alabama, Bo Bice and Hank Williams
35. Biltmore Estate
36. Southern belles
37. Rhett Butler

I asked my sister if she had any thoughts on the subject and she contributed five really GREAT reasons.

1. I don't have to explain my accent
2. People don't think I'm stupid because of my accent
3. I don't have to shovel snow (not true in all parts, but it's been a looooong time since I've seen snow too)
4. I can wear the same clothes year-round (again, not true in all parts. She's on the Georgia coast, I'm in north Alabama and I definitely have summer and winter wardrobes)
5. Young children (and old children) call me "Miss Bev" even though I'm beyond the age of being a "Miss"

I'd hoped I could come up with 50 good reasons, and I suppose if I listed all the fried things individually, I could stretch it out.

What makes the South special to you? Add to my list and let's see if we can get it to 50 or beyond.


Oh... I forgot. The black-eyed pea story.



I mentioned that we lived in Frankfurt, Germany for four years. We lived in an apartment complex filled with other Americans who were employed by various governmental agencies. Most were Yankees but a few of us Southerners had squeaked in.

My upstairs neighbor was a good Catholic woman from Erie, Pennsylvania. One day she appeared at my front door with an open tin can. "What do I do with these?" she asked as she shoved the can itoward me. Inside the can were black-eyed peas.

"Just put them in a pot and warm them up," I told her. "Then eat them."

"Oh," she replied. "I really wasn't sure what to do with them."

Not sure what to do with black-eyed peas? Seemed a little odd to me. So I pursued the subject a bit further.

Army commissaries often have food in plain silver cans with no label. The only marking is black stenciling on the top of the can. This particular can had the following "code" on the top: B-Eye Peas. Simple enough, I thought. Well... not to a Yankee.

"I thought I was buying Bird's Eye Peas," she explained, not thinking that Bird's Eye is a brand name and not a type of pea.

"Nope, you bought black-eyed peas. You might want to throw a little ham in there to season them up. That'll make them taste even better."

And that is the black-eyed pea story. I guess it was a lot funnier if you were there. And you're from the south.


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And in a completely unrelated matter...



Four of the Playfriends and a Friend of the Playground attended an all-day workshop on August 26. It was offered through the Southern Magic chapter of RWA and featured Debra Dixon (of GMC fame) speaking on GMC and The Hero's Journey. I'd heard the two hour condensed version of this in Dallas two years ago. The all-day version is awesome. And so is Debra Dixon. She sat at our table during lunch and we just gabbed with her. How cool is that? And now I have my GMC book autographed too.

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Now for a completely related matter...

Award-winning author Roxanne St. Claire will be guest blogging with us next Tuesday, September 12. Be sure to visit us that day. We'll be having a contest with a winner picked from those who comment on her blog. I don't know about you, but it thrills me to death to have her play in the sandbox with us!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

It's Tuesday, right?

Man, three-day weekends (while lots of fun with the sleeping in and all), really screw up my timeline. I forget which day it is, and I'll be screwy all week as realize I'm a day ahead of where I think I should be. I nearly forgot it was my day to blog!

I didn't get as much done on the WIP yesterday as I'd hoped. Partly because DG was home, clicking away on his computer (The way our office is set up, I can't see him, but I can hear him), and while he did a good job not bugging me overall, I think the mere fact of him being here kept me from focusing properly.

But, deep down, I know the main reason I didn't get much done yesterday was because it'd been too long since I'd had quality time with my WIP. I didn't have any momentum coming into it; I had to go back and read to see where I was. I had to look at the synopsis to see what was going on. I'd lost touch with my characters and my story.

Note to self: Don't stay away from WIP too long. All those folks who tell you to write every day, no matter what, really do have a point. Hmmm...

So I'm going to try to spend more time with my WIP this week. I know I won't get a lot done until after the 14th of Sept, but maybe just reading what I have, and brainstorming a few ideas or lines of dialogue will keep the WIP fresh enough so when I do get back to seriously writing, I'll have a little momentum there.

On a completely different note, head over to Miss Snark's blog when you have time to kill. Miss Snark is running the 3rd Semi-Regular Crapometer, and this time she's snarking query letters and first pages. Ever wonder how long you have to catch an agent's attention? The Snarkling-submitted entries are being read just like standard slush. She even tells you where she stops reading and why. It's very educational, and I recommend it. (Yes, I know. I'm whining because I don't have time to work on my WIP, but I'm reading Snark Slush. Yeah, but I can read Snark Slush during the three minutes I'm on hold with a vendor...)

Don't be surprised if I'm a bit out of touch until the 15th. I have two workshops to present (which means I should pull those together), a 4-day conference to finish planning and supervise, and a baby shower to plan and host. But, while I'm out slogging at the Pesky Day Job next week, Roxanne St. Claire will be here in my place. How cool is that!?!

PC

Monday, September 04, 2006

Labor Day-Maybe Not


Happy Labor Day, everyone! I hope that most of you are enjoying a day off, filled with family, barbeque, and maybe even a nap. Sounds like heaven to me.

Unfortunately, I get to spend my Labor Day sick, along with Little Man. Our family has been passing around some kind of weird sinus/stomach virus hybrid. I feel like I have a cold, but when I'm tempted to eat my stomach hurts really bad. Very weird to me. I can't imagine what it feels like to my two-year-old. So we'll probably spend today much like yesterday: piled up on the couch watching cartoons on television. At least, I hope so.

One might think that all that time lying around would yield lots of pages worth of worthy prose, or at least a ton of notes. After all, what else do you have to do? And yet, I've always found it hard to write when I'm sick. My brain can't seem to concentrate for long before being interrupted by the overwhelming signals from my body. Writing with a sick child in your lap is nigh unto impossible.

I take that back. If I'm not sick, I can write just fine with one of my little darlings piled onto my lap, because I write my first drafts long hand. That's actually how I started writing. I wrote my first book longhand while nursing my oldest. But I'm not in that stage of this book, I'm in revisions. Which means the Alphasmart or the computer. Kind of hard to do either of those with a wiggling child.

Well, I'm off to check on Little Man's fever and give him his first dose of Robitussin for the day. While I'm busy, why don't y'all discuss whether you write when you don't feel well or not. For those of you who are published, how to you cope with this and a deadline?

Angel

Friday, September 01, 2006

Sizzling Summer Nights Winners


Please join me in congratulating the winners of our Sizzling Summer Nights Contest!
Meg Reid of Caddo Mills Tx is our grand prize winner
and
Debby Johnson of Columbia SC is our runner up
Congratulations Ladies!
If you didn't win this time don't despair! Be sure to enter Smarty Pant's Paranormal Pleasures Contest at www.writingplayground.com. She's got some fantastic things up for grabs.
Thanks everyone for entering!
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