Wednesday, February 28, 2007


February has come to an end and so has our Fantasy and Faerie Tales Contest! Congratulations go out to our first prize winner:

Kat Davis!

She's picked up our great fantasy and faerie tales basket including her very own tiara!

Our runner up is:
Ruth Wells
Congrats ladies! Enjoy your prizes (especially the Johnny Depp movie...)


Remember to play nice

Wasn't that the last thing your mother always told you as you ran out the back door to play with friends? It's what my mother always told me. She darn well expected me to do it, and I darn well knew the consequences if I didn't.

The Playfriends appointed me "Playground Monitor" so I could keep folks in line. Uh, I think it has to do with the fact I'm old enough to be their mother.

Occasionally I put on the "Mommy Hat" with the Playfriends but it's usually about something like making sure you get your mammogram or having a will to protect yourselves and your children. I haven't had to do any monitoring since the Writing Playground's inception. Everyone, including all our wonderful commenters, have played real nice.

I wish I could say the same for certain folks in celebrity-dom. Between the fight for a certain blonde's embalmed body, the head-shaving antics and revolving-door rehab attendance of a not-so-hot-anymore pop star and the recent naughty photos of an American Idol contestant, there's been an awful lot of not-so-nice playing going on. People are being hurt as a result. Parents are embarrassed. Children are affected. The public is disillusioned. Simon's going to be devastated and somebody's going to be in Randy's dawg house.

There seems to be a lot of Too Stupid To Live Syndrome going around. Haven't these folks learned that America soon tires of their antics and the courts don't like frivolous lawsuits? Did no one learn anything from the Miss America who lost her crown over photos taken years before? Hello!

I also see posts on websites and blogs that come back to bite the poster in the backside. When we began the Playground, I wrote some authors I knew and asked for suggestions on blogging. The one piece of stand-out advice I received was this: "If you wouldn't want it to be on the front page of the New York Times, don't put it on your blog."

The blogosphere is bigger than the New York Times. It is out there for the world to see.


They don't call it the world wide web for nothing.

And the whole world, well almost, has visited the Playground.

Look at all the places our visitors live. They're all over North America. The dot that obliterates Hawaii is from one of our RWA chapter's newest members who moved alllllllllllll the way from the Aloha state to Alabama. We've had visitors from Central and South America, there's nice representation from Europe, a few dots in Africa and the Middle East, folks in India, the Orient and Down Under. And way up there in the north-central part of Eurasia is a dot that may or may not be Kazakhstan. Borat maybe?

We thank you all for visiting and hope you'll visit again and often. We love having a full playground. We also like having toys on the playground, and look at our new toy!

Because my mother also told me to share my toys, one lucky commenter today will receive one of these spiffy Writing Playground ballpoint pens.

Tell us a little bit about your part of the world.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Hanging with the cool kids…

First off, a big congrats to Maven Linda Winstead Jones for double finalling in the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence. The Star Witch is a finalist in the Paranormal category, and Lucky’s Woman is a finalist in Long Contemporary. Yay, LJ! We knew they were super books!


May is fast approaching, which means the Playfriends are gearing up for our RWA chapter’s annual Romance Readers’ Luncheon. (They probably wouldn’t be half as geared if I wasn’t the Event Coordinator, and they were all, therefore, pressed into service, willingly or not…).

I could bore you all with the details behind the luncheon, but you really don’t want to get me started…Instead, let me tell you how totally cool this will be! If you are at all within travel distance of Huntsville, AL you should make plans to attend this event. (And I’m not just blowing our horn because it’s our event…it really is going to be that great.)

First off, we have New York Time’s bestselling author Karen Robards as our guest speaker.

Joining Karen are our Mavens (Linda Howard, Beverly Barton, and Linda Winstead Jones), special friends and guests on the Playground (Rhonda Nelson, Sabrah Agee, Kelley St. John, Jennifer LaBrecque, Lori Handeland, Janice Lynn, Debra Webb, and Paula Graves) AND our own HOD authors whom we love (Bonnie Gardner, Kate Lyon, Deborah Matthews, Lyn Stone, and Peggy Webb).

Plus we have new friends to meet—authors who are coming in from all over to hang with us for the first (but hopefully not last) time: Melanie Atkins, Delores Fossen, Debby Giusti, Rickey Mallory, Elizabeth White, and Lori Wilde.

Then there’s also our good friends who we’re still trying to get come visit us on the Playground: Anna DeStefano, Tanya Michaels, and Dianna Love Snell.

See, I told you all the cool kids would be there….

The $25 registration fee covers the cost of lunch at a table hostessed by one of these fantastic and fun ladies, a goodie bag stuffed full of books and promotional items from authors all over the country, and a chance to win gift baskets provided by the authors as door prizes.

We also have raffles for additional gift baskets and the chance to be a character in an author’s upcoming book.

Waldenbooks sets up a bookfair representing all of our authors who are there to personally sign your copies. Waldenbooks donates a portion of the profits to HOD for us to donate to a local literacy program. (So it’s guilt-free shopping! Stock up for yourself or do some early Christmas shopping and feel good about it!!)

And if that’s not enough, all five Playfriends will be on hand as well. J

Mark your calendars now: May 5, 2007; 11am –3 pm, VonBraun Civic Center, Huntsville, AL. Registration information is available at the HOD website,

I hope to see you there! It's going to be an awesome event!


Now that I've finished my shamless plug, let me ask you this: Which author (not listed above) would you really like to meet?


Monday, February 26, 2007

Time is almost up!

Have you entered the Fantasy & Faerie Tales Contest yet?? It's not too late. The contest ends Wednesday the 28th, so be sure to enter online.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Are You Living?

If a biblical plague had struck my house this week, I would not have been surprised. To say it has been a rough one is an understatement, but I've learned a lot in the process.

Last weekend, my family lost our beloved grandfather. I've spent the week trying to offer support and a helping hand. Grieving for the man who wasn't related to me by blood, but treated me as a granddaughter, nonetheless. Trying to guide Drama Queen through her first real exposure to death. And just generally slogging through the daily grind despite no get-up-and-go.

Currently, I'm at home with two small, sick children. My husband is out-of-town. And I still feel like I'm living in a brain fog. Get the picture?

This afternoon, I once again fell into the stinkin' thinkin' that I was a lousy writer because I hadn't accomplished my goals this week. (I know, totally unreasonable, but there it is...) Then I remembered something that one of our wonderful Mavens said: "If you don't live, then the creative well will run dry."

What did I really do this week? Live. Deal. Find solutions, both practical and emotional. And each day those experiences were dumped into my creative well to feed the stories and characters in my mind.

How will I be able to portray a grieving woman if I don't know that we all react differently to grief? I tend to shut down, perform competently while feeling like I could sleep for 20 out of 24 hours. But I've seen other women in the family cope by moving constantly throughout the day, distracting themselves with meaningful and meaningless activity. How can I draw a picture of a woman who wants more than anything to make the hurt disappear for her child? A woman seeking to support the man she loves through his own grief and journey toward healing?

Writing, creating comes through living. The ups. The downs. The craziness life throws at us sometimes. We experience it by getting out from behind the computer and interacting with others, supporting others, arguing with others, and watching the world around us.

One day there will be a loveable grandfather in one of my stories. One who wears suspenders, quits smoking cold turkey after 50 years, insists on wearing old, ratty tennis shoes despite his wife's gripes, and teaches two daughters, four grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren how a man of integrity really lives.


Friday, February 23, 2007

Points and Plots

As Instigator mentioned yesterday, dieting is very much on the consciousness of all the Playfriends, as though this week's subjects (candy, chocolate...) and titles hadn't tipped you off...heck even the "market" conversation made me think of grocery shopping. Sigh. What does this have to do with anything? Not much other than my recent obsession with food is flowing over into all the other areas of my life. I even wrote a scene yesterday where the characters were eating at a nice restaurant. Wonder how many points it is for oysters rockefeller and a chocolate souffle? More than my daily allotment, no doubt. :)

I'm even eating while I write this blog...reduced fat wheat thins. Yum.

I'm easily distracted lately. Fortunately, my writing challenge is going better that my diet (although the true test won't come until next Monday when I weigh in again.) I have been writing at least two pages every day and I've knocked out two chapters since I started. It isn't the 6 page a day goal I'd hoped for, but its certainly better than the zero pages I'd written in the weeks/months prior. I'm also in the middle, my worst place. I'm struggling to figure out what happens between A and C, and so far, I've had some good developments.

For one, I've signed up for an online class to help me along - Private Investigations for Writers. When I was writing about my character, a new PI, I realized I had no idea what she would do in certain situations. At first, the mechanics of her job were not critical to the plot, but I've made changes that bring her work front and center. I couldn't count on my hazy memories of Magnum PI or Simon & Simon to bail me out. Their methods are most certainly outdated anyway, if not completely unrealistic. I caught a class that had just started being taught by two actual PIs, one who also writes for HQ. I was very stoked they let me join late - the next class isn't until October and my book has to be finished, proofed, cleaned up and ready to pitch before July gets here. So far, so good.

Two, I've worked more on my villians. My current story has 4, all working separately, so its been difficult working out each one's motivations - are they evil or just sneaky, mean spirited or just trying to make a buck...although they're all bad in one way or another, only one of them can be the real bad guy and he can't be the one you think it is. I've had a few realizations while munching on rice cakes that are moving me in a positive direction.

That established, over the next couple days I have to figure out what is typically done during a seance. Yeah, I said seance. All I have are images of gypsies and levatating tables and ghosts who knock twice for yes and once for no. Probably as close to reality as Magnum is to PI work. This should prove interesting to research, at the very least. I'm sitting here wondering where I'd even start. Of course, I've got to put off the research to spend the weekend in Atlanta watching dirt bikes jump in the air and go around a track over and over and over...I'd take a book, but I'm sure some guy'd spill beer on it. I love my life.

So...on top of all this, the buying and selling of homes and the domestic strife of Anna Nicole and Britney are pulling my brain in about eight different directions right now. How do you focus on one thing when everything else is nagging at you to pay attention to it?

(160/250 pages = 46% complete!)

Wednesday, February 21, 2007


Most of the playground is on a diet. I'm certain this isn't a phenomenon centered only on the playground. New Year's resolutions. Lenten promises. It's the right time to be giving up, sacrificing in order to become a better person. At least that's what I tell myself when I really, really, really want that valentine's chocolate my girls brought home from school.

So far, the end result isn't exactly what I've been looking for. Sure, I've lost a couple pounds but not nearly as quickly as I'd like. Patience...not a strong virtue for me :-)

It probably isn't a fluke that I started a writing challenge around the same time as I did this diet (although probably not very intelligent on my part). Both goals require similar constant commitment.

Just like there are days when I find I can't resist that bag of Doritos in the cabinet, there are days I find it very difficult to sit down in front of the computer to write. Not because I don't want to. Or that the story isn't there. But usually because I simply don't have the energy to be creative. Just like I don't always have the willpower to deny myself that treat.

What I do have is the drive to succeed - at both writing and the diet. I might have off days, I might backslide for a week, but I will get back into the groove because both are very important to me. This diet isn't just about losing weight. It's about feeling better, instilling better habits in my children than I now have. This writing challenge isn't just about completing another book. It's about rediscovering the joy, something that happens each and every time I work on a new project.

Habits. They can be good or bad. Hopefully I'm changing some damaging ones with this diet and maybe working on better ones with this writing challenge.

What bad habit do you have that you'd like to change?


Three Cheers for Chocolate!

Feeding your brain: new benefits found in chocolate
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - As if people needed another excuse to like chocolate, new studies suggest a specially formulated type of cocoa may boost brain function and delay decline as people age, researchers said on Sunday.

Scientists, speaking at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in San Francisco, presented results from early studies testing the effects on the brain of flavanols, an ingredient found in cocoa.

Funded by candy maker Mars Inc., which provided a specially formulated liquid cocoa concoction for the research, the studies suggest that flavanols increase blood flow to the brain and may hold promise for treating some vascular impairments.

Mars, a private company, has made a study of the health benefits of cocoa. Its CocoaVia line of chocolates, made with a process that retains flavanols, have been shown in clinical trials to have benefits for the heart.

The latest research also suggests benefits for the brain.

Ian Macdonald of Britain's University of Nottingham Medical School, conducted a small brain imaging study on young, healthy women to see whether flavanol-rich cocoa helped boost cognitive function during challenging mental tasks.

Although the beverage did not improve their performance on the tests, it did increase blood flow to their brains for a two to three-hour period, Macdonald said.

He believes more research might show that increased blood flow could benefit older adults and those who have cognitive impairments, such as fatigue or even mini-strokes.

A U.S. study of healthy adults over 50 also found a marked rise in blood flow. It was conducted by Harvard Medical School researcher Dr. Norman Hollenberg, who has studied the effects of cocoa and flavanols on Panama's Kuna Indian population.

Hollenberg believes that, while promising, the brain benefit needs to be verified.

"The only way we can prove something is working is a large clinical trial," he said.

Meanwhile, the researchers cautioned against rushing out to binge on the special Mars line of chocolates.

"It is a modest calorie load but it is a calorie load," Macdonald said. "As long as you are doing something to earn that 100 calories, then that's fine."

Large clinical trial? *perks up*

Anybody want to join me in volunteering? Lord knows my brain could use some help.

What's your poison? Chocolate? Soft drinks? Cookies? Ice cream? All or none of the above? Tell us about it. I personally have a thing for vanilla popsicles coated with chocolate.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Candy is dandy, but concerts ROCK!

Yes, Valentine’s Day is a commercialized holiday, invented by the card and chocolate industries, and destined to leave many heartbroken or disappointed folks in it’s wake.

Some people are still suffering the after affects: they’re either disappointed with what their significant other got them for V-Day or else they’re in the doghouse for what they did or didn’t do on that high-pressure day.

I know some people have impossible expectations of V-Day, and there’s no way their beloveds could possibly live up to that. How many dieters received chocolate from a clueless (but well-meaning) loved one? I saw lots of men shopping for lingerie on the day before V-Day— don’t they know that’s not a gift for her, it’s a gift for him?

I’m not a big V-Day person. I’ll send a few cards, buy a couple of gifties, but I don’t have high expectations for others on that day. I’m high maintenance in a lot of other days, but this is one holiday I’m very easy about.

But the Darling Geek is the V-Day champ this year. He gave me tickets to the Billy Joel concert in Nashville tomorrow night! Yay! Plus, he even lined up a babysitter.

We’re leaving early enough to eat at one of my favorite restaurants (that I only rarely get to eat at) before the show, and he made hotel reservations for the night so we don’t have to drive home so late.

DG did good, that’s for sure.

I’ll be scrambling to figure out what he’ll be getting at the next gift-giving occasion that will measure up... Meanwhile, I’ll just have to be really nice to him in *other* ways.

V-Day aside, what's the best present your beloved has given you? What about the worst? (I had an ex give me the "free-gift-with-purchase" he got when he bought his Mom's gift...)

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Market Hunt

Writing is a craft, but publishing is a business. It doesn't take submitting long to realize this.

In order to better educate myself on the business side of publishing, last Saturday I spent two hours doing market research. Clicking from one website to the next, I looked at different publishers, their needs, what their latest releases looked like, and numerous other things.

One thing I decided is searching for other markets for category length manuscripts was pretty much like sightseeing on a dead end road. There's Harlequin/Silhouette and e-publishers. As far as I could tell, that's it.

The other thing I realized is that I could lose a lot of time while researching market avenues. One minute I'd settled my children down for rest time, the next I looked up and hours had flown past. The time had come to start evening chores. That's two hours I could have been revising my short story for submission.

I've heard many authors advise newbies to keep up with what's going on in the market, but sometimes I barely have time to write, much less read, so keeping abreast of who is buying what becomes a daunting challenge.

I attended a few publisher spotlights at RWA nationals last year, but quickly gave them up in favor of actual workshops. I wasn't hearing anything I couldn't read on the publisher's website or in the RWR. I talked to a few editors and agents at different events, but didn't feel comfortable addressing market issues in a casual setting. My editor appointment was taken up discussing my pitches. Plus editors and what they acquire can change long before Nationals comes around again.

I'm a little disheartened by the entire process. Anyone out there have any good ideas for keeping up with the market? Any good sources for quick news or ways to learn more about what's happening with different publishers? I'd love any advice y'all could give me.


Saturday, February 17, 2007

And the winner is...

principessa! I loved Sabrina, although I'm partial to the new one with Greg Kinnear and Harrison Ford. You won the DVD of Return to Me! Please email me with your address at to claim your prize.


Friday, February 16, 2007

Blinding Gossip

I’ve got gossip on the brain this morning. I consistently read the columns of my favorite goss guy (cause I can't stand to read real news anymore) and found on a message board a website that keeps track of what they call ‘blind items.’ These are tidbits of gossip that are so juicy, and litigation-worthy, that they’ll tell the story, but not say outright who it is. Then everyone tries to guess. If it’s generally accepted that the answer has been discovered or narrowed down to two or three possibilities, they post the names.

I have to tell you, it’s addictive and mildly disconcerting. If most of this stuff is true – and who really knows – the majority of Hollywood heavyweights are total cokeheads in setup relationships to cover their secret sex lives. The kind of stuff that will either make your toes curl or nauseate you. As Hollywood couple after couple break up, it makes me true love even possible in that kind of environment? We go to the movies and watch these larger than life actors in sweeping romances that make us swoon. Maybe we even envision them as we're writting our stories as inspriation. Then we find out later that in real life, the hero’s gay and cheating on his wife in massage parlors and the heroine’s a junkie porn addict.

How depressing.

Thank goodness for books because it looks like the only real heroes left are in the pages of our latest must-read. If we’re lucky, we’ve got our own hero at home too, but for some, the book is as close as we get. There’s definitely an advantage to a paperback hero - the characters don’t have real lives to ruin their images. Our heroes are just that – heroes. They swoop the heroine off her feet, save her from most certain peril, and do so while saying heartfelt things that make us go “awww.”

To add on to Instigator’s post yesterday...I read and write romance for the HEA. While we can never be 100% certain we'll have it in our own lives, we can most certainly have it in our books. Without that ending and the promise that they’ll be together forever and deliriously happy, all we’d have are these Hollywood romances to look to. Not exactly what I’m hoping for.

Regardless of what they do in real life, I'm a sucker for a good romantic movie. Granted, I'm picky, but I do have a slew of DVDs of ones that made the cut. My absolute favorite romance of all time has to be either You've Got Mail or While You Were Sleeping. (I consider Princess Bride to be more comedy than romance, but it's definitely in my top 10 movies of all time, regardless of category.) What's yours?

One commenter today will receive a copy of Return to Me on DVD - another one of my favorite romances with David Duchovny and Minnie Driver. (Also includes Bonnie Hunt, my snarky twin separated at birth...)

Okay - one week down and here's the verdict:

140/350 pages = 40% completed

(zokutou is down again...)

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The Morning After

As a romance writer I absolutely love Valentine's Day. How could I not? It's a celebration of one of the strongest forces, love.

However, the morning after always makes me a bit sad. The roses wilt. The balloons deflate. And the chocolates migrate to the hips. It's so easy to get lost back in the mundane - heaven only knows I'm guilty - and let the celebration disappear.

Love is something to be treasured on every day, not just one. And don't get me wrong, I absolutely think we can accomplish that without flowers, sappy cards, or overindulging in chocolate. It's the little things that are important. The actions that speak louder than the words (or a singing card).

I'm loved by many people in my life. I know that on most days. And I suppose any day that reminds me to cherish that gift is a good one...maybe the problem isn't that we have Valentine's Day, maybe it's that we only have it once a year.

Perhaps that's why I read and write romance, the characters and stories remind me when I slip and forget. Through their journey I can see the possibilities and remember that I have those same loving experiences in my own life with my husband, children, and family. Why do you write and/or read romance?


P.S. The writing challenge is going slooowly but I've that's something :-)

P.P.S. Congratulations to our winners from yesterday's blog! Teresa wins a fabulous book from Wayne. And Lainie and Emma win bookthongs. Please email Playground Monitor at with your snail mail address and she'll get your prizes right out.

That's correct... HE writes romance novels

I "met" today's guest blogger several years ago when we reviewed for the same website. Then one day he surprised us all by announcing he'd received "The Call" from BET/Arabesque books. And even more surprising was the fact he'd written a romance novel. Now, I don't know why any of us should be surprised about a man writing romance. The romance heroes we all swoon over are men. Today many women are receiving bouquets of flowers from men. Who made the rule that men can't write romance?

Nobody, that's who, and Wayne Jordan has shown the world that a man can both read and write romance. His first book, Capture the Sunrise, was released in November 2005 in a 2-in-1 volume along with a romance by another male author. His second novel, Embracing the Moonlight, was released by Harlequin Kimani last September.

Wayne lives on the beautiful tropical island of Barbados, where his books are set. And yes, he has an island accent.

Wayne graciously brought us a load of beautiful white sand from his island to replenish our sandbox, so please sink your toes into the warm Barbadian sand and welcome Wayne to the Playground.

When Marilyn asked me to write this BLOG, I was excited. I love telling my story. I’ll definitely say it’s not a Cinderella story, but a story of a Prince Charming who wanted to tell the story from his point of view and who wanted to show that men call tell love stories too.

I started reading romance novels when I was thirteen years old (I’m 45 in May), and for the first few years, I hid in the male closet of romance, shamed that I found the sweetness of romance novels appealing. In 1980, I entered university to study for a degree in literature and was introduced to “proper” literature, but I still yearned for genre fiction (romance, mystery, suspense). I enjoyed the university literary fiction I studied but found it too intense and oppressive. When I came home at night after studying for the whole day, I wanted something different. I wanted to be a handsome sheikh rescuing a damsel in distress or a wounded cop who reluctantly became a beautiful woman’s bodyguard only to fall deeply in love with her. I continued to read romance and in the late 1990s decided I wanted to seriously write romance.

Today, Valentine’s Day 2007, I’ve published two releases with Harlequin Kimani Press and have two due this year -- the first two books in my KNIGHT FAMILY trilogy. ONE GENTLE KNIGHT will be released in July and TO LOVE A KNIGHT in 2008. Today, I feel a sense of accomplishment, but one that took me a long time to accept.

In October 2005, I met a friend who I’d not seen for several years. Of course, during the conversation I mentioned I’d signed as an author with a major US publisher and my first book would to be released in November of that year. And then the dreaded question popped up. “What’s the book about? What kind of story is it?” Deliberately, I told him that he’d have to wait until November to find out, since it would be in the local bookstores.

A few minutes later as I drove away from the mall, I realized the significance of my response. After thirty years of reading romance novels, I still felt ashamed about what I read and write. But how could I be embarrassed when many of my friends and students knew about my upcoming book. Yes, they knew, but still I experienced the same jolt of trepidation whenever the dreaded question “popped up.”

That night, after fulfilling my daily writing goal, I thought seriously about my reservations and fears about reading and writing romance and the answer was simple and clear. I wanted to write romance, but didn’t want anyone to see me as less of a man. I didn’t want to be some troubled persona who ached to be in touch with his feminine side, since I’m very much a MAN. I was somehow dealing with the same kinds of pressure I’d dealt with when my school mates ridiculed me for my reading habits and my father caught me reading a romance novel years ago and looked at me in the strange disappointed way. But even more, I was dealing with a deep-rooted inferiority complex that is far more disturbing.

I’m a graduate of the University of the West Indies with a B. A. in Literature and Linguistics and a M.A. in Applied Linguistics. I teach high school Literature and Theatre Arts and I’m sure that the literary world to which I wanted so badly to belong considers me a traitor.

Romance novels? What about the great Barbadian or West Indian novel? Don’t you want to be the next Derek Walcott or George Lamming?

HELL, NO! Lord knows how many times I’ve heard those words!

In 1999, I attended a writing workshop at the university and remember clearly the day when the workshop presenter, a noted English author, considered my work “too commercial.” At the end of the workshop, he made an interesting comment. “You write what you read. If you read trash then you’re going to write trash.” For some reason, I knew that he was directing the comment at me. At that time, I kept quiet, and bowed my head under the weight of his reprimand.

So why, after a background in so- called “proper” literature, and the not too subtle reprimand of a respected member of the literary fraternity, do I still read and write romance?

Again, the answer is simple and easy.

That night with a fire raging inside, I pulled out the first two chapters of a book I’d started to write and promised myself that I’d dance to my own drum. Six years later, I’m a published romance author, who no longer feels any shame at what I write.

Despite the earlier ridicule I’d endured, I know that the music of romance plays deep inside my soul and I want to be true to who I am. I want to write stories that spring from seeds I have watered with my tears and pain and watch them blossom with my laughter. For now, those stories are stories of strong honorable heroes and feisty modern heroines; of passionate kisses and throbbing manhoods; and of course, stories about the happily-ever-after.

One of my favorite authors, Judith McNaught, once said that if she makes the reader laugh and cry and then laugh again, she knows that she has fulfilled her role as an author. If I can do half the job that Ms. McNaught does, then I know that I too have fulfilled my role.

Recently, I read a novel by Kristi Gold, FALL FROM GRACE, a debut release in Harlequin’s EVERLASTING LOVE line. I won’t tell you what the story is about, but Ms. Gold has written a story that makes me proud to be a romance author. FALL FROM GRACE is a well-crafted novel with wonderfully complex characters in a heart-wrenching story of forgiveness and second chances.

It would be remiss of me, if I don’t mention that I write African-American romance and have been an advocate of the African-American romance from the time I held the first romance with a hero and heroine of my color. My feelings about segregation and non African-American romance readers who don’t read our books are well known, so I won’t talk about that here. I grew up on stories by Lilian Peake, Anne Mather, Anne Hampson, Violet Winspear and many more; my choice of reading hasn’t changed much. I don’t read romance because of the color of the hero and heroine on the cover. I read romance and write it because I love the same thing all of you do. A good romance! A good romance comes in all colors!

Have a wonderful Valentine’s!

P.S. One of today's commenters will be randomly selected to win a copy of Wayne's latest release, Embracing the Moonlight. And two others will get a handmade beaded bookthong with heart-shaped beads.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Really? 500? Squeee!

Wow. This is the 500th post on the Playground Blog. Who would have ever thought we’d have that much to say?* Or that anyone would want to listen to us?

I would genuinely love to be profound, inspirational, or even witty in this milestone post, but I’m afraid I might not deliver. The pressure is killing me.

You might have noticed that we’re all about the milestones around here. We’re pretty liberal with what qualifies for a celebration—even if it’s just a cyber-quickie squeeee celebration.

Finished a book? Celebrate!

Met your daily page goal? Celebrate!

Got nice comments from a contest, even though you didn’t final? Celebrate!

Filled the plot hole in your book? Celebrate!

Firmed up the sagging middle of your book? Celebrate!

Firmed up YOUR sagging middle with a 5 pound weight loss? Celebrate!

Didn’t commit bodily harm to your DH when he interrupted you for the 20th time while you were trying to get that chapter finished? Celebrate!

We’re generous with the milestones because the rest of world isn’t.

It’s very easy to be hard on yourself. The question is why you’d want to. Dog knows the rest of the world is ready and willing to slag off on you and rain on your parade. So give yourself a break and celebrate your accomplishments—however small.

We’re celebrating all kinds of milestones on the Playground today. What accomplishment would you like to celebrate? Tell us so we can all cheer and squeee on your behalf.

*Snarky comments about me being Mouth of the South are unnecessary, thank you very much.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Emotional Roadblocks

Last night, I wrote THE END, finishing revisions on my current work-in-progress (wip). I've loved this book, but I was ready for it to be over. Looking back, I realize that its my own fault this has taken so long. There have been several stalls. Sometimes its life; sometimes its just me.

As anyone who knows me will tell you (my husband could probably expound in great detail upon the subject), I'm a very emotional person. I get upset easily and have a negative bent to my outlook on life. I've realized this creates some emotional roadblocks for me, especially with my writing.

A major one with this book was that I received a request for it. Now, you'd think that would be great, but I kept letting things get in my way to delay sending it out. (Please note I do at least take responsibility for my actions. :) It only took me about six weeks to realize I was scared.

Because if you never submit anything, then you can't be rejected.

Now I've realized another thing. If I hang onto a project too long, don't start on something new and fresh within a reasonable period of time, then I lose my enthusiasm. This can lead to ugly things like cleaning the bathrooms or taking out the trash instead of working on the wip. (My husband is howling with laughter at this point. I hate housework!)

This is why the type of challenges like Smarty Pants was talking about on Friday work very well for me. They are tough. I have to push myself, but I love getting into the story and staying in it. Using that accountability to force me through those emotional stalls that I let stand in my way.

Here's hoping I can learn from my mistakes and up my production time with new manuscripts. But only if they're also better....

Do you find that emotions stall you in your work? How do you work through those roadblocks?


Sunday, February 11, 2007

Shopping...another Playground pastime

Were you jealous of our stunning (and matching) Playground t-shirts and wanted one of your own?

Now you can have one!

The Writing Playground store is open at Cafe Press. All kinds of t-shirts are there, and DG made a special "Honorary Playfriend" logo just for you.

More fun things to come in the store as we get time.

Wear your Playground gear with pride.

***Please note, we are writers, not Internet merchants. We are not out to make a profit on anything but our writing. We do not make ANY money off of sales in the store. The prices you see were set by Cafe Press...not us.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Rising to the Challenge

A few of us are kicking off another writing challenge on Monday. Hopefully this will help some of shake off the rejection funk that has, at least for me, dampened my writing enthusiasm. I hadn’t touched my MS since November. I decided to take Christmas off, then January 3rd, the bomb dropped and I hadn’t cared. Instigator took the chapters I had with her on vacation and came back with edits that have gotten me slowly back into the mindset, although I’m not really writing much new text. The challenge will force me to do that. Deadlines, even if self-imposed, can get you back on the horse and into the swing of things. I so need it.

Last summer, our writing challenge produced a whole book in six weeks time for each of us. It was a very rough draft, most definitely, but it pushed me through the hem n’ haw middle where I stop writing if I hit a wall or forget what I’m supposed to be doing. Not sure I’m going to be that ambitious this go around, especially since I’m trying a longer formatted book, but I do have 120 pages under my belt already. Of course, the first 100 pages are always the easiest for me and now I’m approaching said middle.

Perhaps I can finish. My goal this time will be modest – 350 page book minus 120 already written, is 230 pages. Divide that by seven weeks worth of weekdays (I’m a realist here) and it gives me almost 7 pages a day, less if I manage to write on a Saturday or something when DB is sleeping. Totally doable. I think. My goal is really 380-400 pages, but this is a rough draft and I can flesh out the rest in the revision challenge that will inevitably come sometime later.

The thought just occurred to me that when this challenge is done, it will be April and we’ll be that much closer to going to Scotland! Guess I’d better crank this out because after Scotland is Dallas and sometime in the middle there, I have to sell a house, move into a new house and finish this book so I have something to pitch in an editor or agent appointment in Texas. So much to do!

I know I’ve just flown all the way through July with that last paragraph, but time can certainly fly when you’ve got a bunch of things going on. Lots of stuff happening – good stuff, really. I’m feeling good about the world in general, which is the first time I’ve felt this way in a while. I hope it sticks around. (My realtor is coming to the house tonight, so it may vanish by the time you’ve read this.) I’ll enjoy it while it lasts.

Motivation can be hard to come by. What do you use to perk up the ambition when its no where to be found?

Watch for the return of the mighty Zokutou meter next week!

Thursday, February 08, 2007


The playfriends have gone on several field trips lately to see movies. Most of us have absolutely loved the movie...right up until about 5 minutes before the end. It isn't unusual for us to walk out of the theater commenting on how the resolution was unsatisfying and how the ending was a let-down compared to the rest of the emotionally fulfilling scenes that lead up to it. I've spent quite a bit of time trying to figure out why this is.

Surely there isn't a rash of Hollywood screenwriters that simply took a vacation on the last five minutes of their screenplay. I'm wondering if the problem isn't us...does the fact that we write and read romance provide us with unusually high expectations in the resolution department?

I'm taking an online class (An emotions class with Alicia Rasley through CRW - fantastic!!). During our discussion on emotion and how it ties to POV, the emotional disconnect of an author came up. The basic idea was presented that we have lost the "illusion" in storytelling. That we see the working parts behind the emotions the author is trying to evoke because we've worked the same magic in our own writing - setting up clues, foreshadowing, weaving background and story together for increased emotional impact.... And you know, I have to agree. It has become increasingly difficult for me to lose myself in a story (not just reading but in movies and TV as well). Maybe that's why we've been unsatisfied with the endings? We've simply not been able to put aside that storytelling mentality and get lost enough in the emotions enough to feel the impact at the end?

Have you ever been disappointed in the ending of a book or movie?


P.S. Beth is our winner from yesterday. Congratulations! Please email with your snail mail address and she'll get your prize right out to you.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

African American Romances - Their Place in the Genre

This year I've embarked on a program to broaden my reading horizons. Up til now I've read short contemporary romances almost exclusively, but I decided it was time to experience what else was out there. Last summer in Atlanta I went to the Harlequin book signing, met a lovely woman named Bridget Anderson and was able to get a copy of her May 2006 release, Hotel Paradise. Since this month is Black History month, I decided to pull Bridget's book out of the TBR pile and experience my first African American romance. Darius meets Alicia, they're attracted, they each have something they want, a reason for wanting it and of course there's that inevitable conflict that keeps them apart. But true love prevails and in the end they live happily ever after.

So... what's different?

Bridget has graciously agreed to blog for us today on the subject of AA romance and how it fits into the overall romance genre. Please make room on the swing set for her and give her a big Playground welcome.

Thanks for asking me to blog about African American Romance novels. As a teenager, I read just about everything I could get my hands on. Romance novels became my favorite. I tore through Nora Roberts and Victoria Holt (just to name a few) books like they were going out of style. However, just once I thought it would have been nice to discover a main character who looked like me. Often times I changed the characters look in my mind's eye and she did look just like me.

You asked where I thought the African American romance novel's place was in the genre as a whole, how they're different, and how they're the same. Several years ago I read an article that said African American's make up the fastest growing segment of the romance reading community. So I'm not the only one who wants to read about people who look like me, experience some of the same things I do, and have some of the same cultural experiences I have. African American romance novels reflect a sign of the ever changing times and should be a welcomed edition to the genre.

In my opinion, the flavor and voice of the African American experience makes the novels different -- the way they depict African American history, life inside black colleges (sororities and fraternities), churches, family reunions, and even Kwanzaa celebrations. A writer has to capture the essence of the Afrocentric lifestyle in America today and get it down on paper. In Hotel Paradise, I dealt with someone of Gullah descent. In Moonlight & Magnolias I introduced the heroine to Kwanzaa. Every culture has certain unique characteristics that can be used as the backdrop in romance novels.

Another difference I see, and can appreciate, is that African American main characters come in all sizes, shapes, and shades, and with different hair textures. They look like people I know. Hair styles go from bone straight, to afro's and everything in between. I enjoy falling in love with a hero who has a head full of dreadlocks in one story, and a shaved bald head in another. I can relate to the vast array of skin tones being anywhere from high-yellow, to red bone, to mocha brown. In my family alone there are people with all the looks mentioned above.

Now, at the same time how are they the same? Love is love, no matter how you slice it. Throughout the novel the main focus is still on the relationship between a man and a woman. You have a happy ending and establish a lifetime commitment between the couple. The thrill of the chase (courtship) remains the same no matter what race. And doesn't every woman ultimately want commitment from a man? I know I do. In that respect, African American romances are like any other romance novel. Whether they are aware of it or not, the lucky couple is about to fall head over hells in love with each other. Oh, and if there's some danger and mayhem along the way even better I say. An interesting plot is why I pick up a romance novel, any romance novel.

Bridget doesn't have a website yet but she loves to hear from readers at She also has a book on the shelves now. Sweet Memphis Crush was released last month by Harlequin/Kimani Press and is available at a bookseller near you.

Have you read any AA or other multi-cultural romance? Tell us about it.

P.S. One lucky commenter today will receive a copy of Hotel Paradise. I especially enjoyed the setting -- Jekyll Island, Georgia -- because my mother lives in the area and it was oh so easy for me to picture the setting in my mind -- gentle breezes, beautiful beaches and marshes, giant oaks dripping with Spanish moss and some of the best shrimp you'll ever eat.

P.P.S. Next Wednesday we'll have a special guest blogger for Valentine's Day. It's another AA author who resides on the island of Barbados and *gasp* is a man who writes romance!

The other kind of partner...

Weekend before last, my Critique Partner and I met in Nashville for a weekend of plotting and planning. Nashville is about half-way for both of us—not so far that it’s a nightmare drive, but not so close that I feel the need to run home mid-day to feed the family. :-)

The purpose of the plotting weekend is just that—plotting books. We spent half the time on my books, making sure the plot I had was working, and plotting out the endings in ways that made sense. The other half of the time we spent plotting her newest book. By the time we broke for dinner Saturday night, we had three books sketched out in notebooks. We also spent time discussing our careers—which agents to query, where we hoped to go next, the ins and outs of website design. Seven pm on Friday night to eleven am Sunday morning—thirty-six hours of books, books, and more books. I went home energized and ready to write. I think we should make this a twice-a-year event—a standing date to plan books and careers without the distractions of everyday life.

Critique Partner relationships can be odd animals. A good CP relationship is like a marriage—you need trust and caring. You have to want the best for the other person and have that person bring out the best in you. Your CP needs to challenge you, respect you, and most of all, “get” you. Good CPs are as hard to come by as good husbands and the relationship should be nurtured like your marriage.

Yet getting a CP is nothing like how you met and dated your Darling. At least I hope not. It’s like meeting someone you think you might like and then sleeping with them on the first date to see if you’re compatible. I placed a personal ad on a writers’ loop to find my CP. She responded, we introduced ourselves online and then we sent chapters to each other to see if we clicked. Sending work to a complete stranger and asking her to tell you what she thinks—honestly—is scary and felt a lot like jumping into bed with a complete stranger.

Much like in those arranged marriages we all love to read about in romance novels, CPs start with the intimacy and then move to the getting to know and trust each other. Heck, we’d been critting each other for over a year before we ever actually met in person. By then, we’d already been through the joy of requests and contest wins and the agony of rejections. How do you meet an old friend for the first time?

I know of lots of people who have multiple CPs. CP relationships don’t have to be exclusive. Not me. I don’t have the time to critique more than one person. Yes, the Playfriends are known to circulate chapters or synopses, but that usually only happens right before something goes off in the mail—the last (or next-to-last) read mainly for fresh eyes on the story (and the typos). I don’t normally give them raw stuff. My poor CP gets the raw drafts—sometimes they are barely saved before they’re in her mailbox awaiting judgment and advice. Sometimes we rewrite the same scene over and over again. I’m invested in her books, and she’s invested in mine. CPs get the tough jobs.

My CP has made me a stronger and better writer. Ask other writers about their CPs and you’ll hear similar stories. Check out the dedications of books; that writer’s CP is most likely in that list of names. Because good CPs are hard to come by.

So, tell me about the person who challenges, inspires, and “gets” you. DH? BFF? I’ll let my CP judge the comments and I'll send a giftie for the comment she likes best.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

What's With the Snow?

This past week we experienced something here in northern Alabama that doesn't happen very often. Snow!!!!

We tend to go a little crazy around here when this phenomenon occurs. Many northerners laugh because a forecast for less than two inches can send us to the grocery store to empty the milk and bread aisles (not to mention the potato chips, oddly enough). Most all the schools and businesses close, or at least open late. It's crazy, I know, but I enjoy the craziness because it adds to the sense of excitement.

Have you ever noticed how real life weather or scenery can add a certain emotion to the day? Or contrast to an important life event? The day I married my husband was a stifling, hot Southern July day. But as soon as the ceremony finished, a huge thunderstorm blew in and rained buckets on the church. It was so unexpected that we didn't even notice that the interior had darkened considerably so that some of our wedding pictures didn't turn out.

Now, a thunderstorm completely contrasted with the joy and hope that day represents to me. But an older lady told me that wedding days marked by thunderstorms are actually considered to be blessed, capable of weathering anything to last through the ages. Personally, I have to agree.

This nostalgic trip down weather lane does actually have a purpose. :) The characters and events in our books don't occur in a void, though if you read my first drafts you'd think they did. Oh, and that my characters were all naked too. Setting is one of the things I go back and layer into my books, because during the first round I'm concentrating on recording the story as it rushes through me. I don't want to miss anything. I can add the extraneous stuff later.

For other authors, I'm sure setting is one of their strengths. They use it as it occurs in real life, as the backdrop to the dramas, a contrast or enhancement to events, or obstacle in their characters' paths.

I had the privilege of reading one of these authors this week. I read the Mistress of Trevelyan by Jennifer St. Giles. This was her first book, published in 2004, a gothic historical set in San Francisco in 1873. Now I can't wait to read her others! I grew up reading gothic romances from our local library all through my teenage years and loved them. This story has all the traditional elements, down to the governness heroine and mysterious master hero. (But don't make the mistake of thinking this storyline is cliche. Far from it!) Most of all, it is set in a dark, gothic mansion surrounded by frequent fog. That's right, fog.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

St. Giles doesn't just have her characters look outside and notice fog. What would be the fun in that? Instead the weather almost serves as an additional character in the book. The fog might serve to heighten tension, add mystery, cloak the unexpected. Sometimes the fog disippates, leaving behind a beautiful day for exploring, horseback riding, or seeking out answers to mysterious clues. There's even a day that starts off great for the heroine and she expects nice weather, but when they get outside, there are dark, dangerous storm clouds on the horizon.

Another interesting piece of the setting is a stained glass window in the entryway of the manor house. Light shines through the glass to fill the air with colors, representing hope for the family within just as much as the fog represents the secrets they keep.

After reading this book, I'm encouraged to pay more attention to the settings in my own and how my characters interact with their surroundings. I think a skillfully created location, weather, house, etc., will only deepen the story and the characters, pushing the book that much closer to being a "keeper."

What books have you read with delicious, interesting settings? How do you make your settings come alive in a book without overpowering the story?


Playfriendz in Luv

The Playfriends had a playdate tonight. We started with dinner at Outback, where our waiter learned how women love to split entrees and exclude certain veggies from the side dishes. Then we headed to Books-a-Million for coffee and talk before going to see a movie. After the movie we headed back to Books-a-Million and yakked until they ran us out for closing.

The movie we saw was "Because I Said So" (which any mother knows is a perfectly good answer to any question) starring Diane Keaton.

According to the Internet Movie Data Base, "Keaton stars as Daphne Wilder, a mother whose love knows no bounds or boundaries. She is the proud mom of three daughters: stable psychologist Maggie (Lauren Graham), sexy and irreverent Mae (Piper Perabo) and insecure, adorable Milly (Mandy Moore) - who, when it comes to men, is like psychotic flypaper. In order to prevent her youngest from making the same mistakes she did, Daphne decides to set Milly up with the perfect man. Little does Milly know, however, that her mom placed an ad in the online personals to find him. Comic mayhem unfolds as Daphne continues to do the wrong thing for the right reasons...all in the name of love. In a hilarious battle of strong wills, the mother-daughter dynamic is tested in all its fierce, wacky complexity. The girls help Daphne finally discover the truths and impossibilities of motherly love, all while trying to answer the questions: where does it begin and where should it end?"

We all enjoyed the movie but most importantly of all, we discovered a new guy for our locker room. His name is Gabriel Macht. And we now present him for your viewing pleasure.

So whaddya think about our new poster boy?

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Romance in the Magic City

Anyone who's been around the playground knows we're all pretty active in our local RWA chapters. So we'd like to advertise the upcoming conference in Birmingham, Alabama sponsored by one of those chapters. It looks to be a pretty great event.

Come and let us show you how to write romance southern-style
in Birmingham, Alabama, at the

Romance in the Magic City

Writers’ Conference
hosted by Southern Magic
March 30, 31, April 1, 2007
$180 - $210

Keynote Speakers
Beverly Barton, Gayle Wilson, Linda Howard

Agent/editor appointments available with
Tracey Farrell, HQN;
Leslie Wainger, Silhouette Books;
Melanie Murray, Hachette Book Group (Warner);
John Scognamiglio, Kensington Books;
Hilary Rubin, St. Martin’s Press
Kimberly Whalen, Trident Media;
Christina Hogrebe, Jane Rotrosen Agency;
Vivian Beck, Vivian Beck Agency.

Workshops Presented by
Sherrilyn Kenyon/Kinley MacGregor,
Dianna Love Snell, Rhonda Pollero/Kelsey Roberts,
Beth Cornelison, Barbara Ferrer/Caridad Ferrer,
Genie Davis/Nikki Alton, Annie Ortman,
Lenora Nazworth/Lenora Worth, Debby Giusti, Tina Gerow,
Kelley St. John, Linda Winstead Jones, Cassondra Murray,
Steve Doyle, Danny Agan (retired Atlanta Detective), and
Connie Rowe (investigator with District Attorney's office).

For a brochure or more information
contact Carla Swafford,

For more information go to or click on the sidebar link.

Friday, February 02, 2007


Congratulations to Katie and Jennifer Y our winners from yesterday's guest blog with Lori Borrill. Please email me at with your snail mail address and we'll get your copy of Private Confessions in the mail right away.



Looming Cloud of Failure

It seems a dark cloud of doom is looming over the Playground lately. This time last year, we were on top of the world – editor requests, full manuscripts being edited and passed around offices in NYC and Canada, contest wins…it was inevitable. We were all going to sell. And soon. Everyone said so and we’d almost convinced ourselves that it was true. The call was coming.

A year later, we’ve ridden the ups and downs of the roller coaster and most of us are finding we’re sick to our stomachs. We haven’t sold. Nearly every MS we sent out came back with painful and sometimes unnecessarily scathing rejections. (Makes me long for the days of the simple - "this won't work for our line" letters.)

Over the last few weeks, several of us have found ourselves in a position we hoped we wouldn’t have to face again – we were three boxes from winning Chutes and Ladders and we hit that dumb slide that takes you all the way down to the bottom. We’re starting over.

I can only speak for myself here, but I’ve had a hard time of it. Right now, I’m not entered in a single chapter run contest, no queries on anyone’s desks…nothing except a long shot entry in the Golden Heart with a book that just got rejected. (I forgot I was even in it until just now…) My CP thought I was mad at her because I haven’t responded to her stuff or sent her anything to read in weeks. That leaves me with just six chapters into a new book that has been recently critiqued by Instigator. I’m hoping her words of wisdom will fuel my creativity and get me back on track. I need a book to pitch in Dallas this summer. I need something to send to some agents. It’s February 2nd, so the writing must start up again. I’ve wallowed for a month. Time to move on.

Just in time to kick it into high gear, we’ve had some good news recently – it seems the clouds are beginning to part. PC placed first in a contest recently and her entry goes to an editor, which was awesome. Perhaps this upswing will fuel our souls enough to start drawing the good energy back in – you know, self-fulfilling prophesies of success and all that. Instigator and Angel both have work out with editors and something good will come of them, I know it. PM will hit her stride again and start cranking out great short stories. I will finally sit down and start working on this book, which I truly feel in my heart is THE ONE. The clouds will clear and it will be sunny on the Playground again, this time with a rainbow to reward us for putting up with the rain.

We will sell. It will happen. (Maven LJ has me working on this…) We will succeed. (Repeat...)


Thursday, February 01, 2007

To All the Nerds I Love

I'm very excited to welcome Lori Borrill, debut Blaze author, onto the playground today. I first met Lori online at It didn't take us long to strike up a critiquing friendship, one that's lasted through some excellent work (her debut book Private Confessions) and some not so great (my early stuff). Welcome Lori! We're glad you could join us.

Thanks Instigator. I'm excited to be here.

Sometimes I wonder why I write romance. There's not much sense to it, given the type of guy I go for. People talk about Matthew McConaughey and I don't see it. I picked up People Magazine's "Sexiest Man Alive" issue and came up with maybe three or four who did anything for me. I mean, for someone who writes romance novels, I've got some pretty quirky taste in men.

Maybe that's why I write Blaze as opposed to lines expecting the ultra-alpha-macho-gorgeous-wealthy types. I just don't know that guy, can't imagine dating him, so I have trouble writing him. And the beautiful thing about Blaze is that I don't have to. Blaze offers a little leniency. It gives me leeway. My guy doesn't have to be quite the stud you'd find in, say, Presents or Desire. I can lean toward the Gamma man. Because for me, no matter how great my heroes are on the eyes, no matter how fantastic they are between the sheets, I've got to throw in a little vulnerability or I just can't stand them.

As a newbie writer, I've so far played it safe and kept my heroes leaning toward the more classic romantic lead, but what I'd really, really like to do someday is write a romance novel featuring the kind of hero who seriously tugs at my heartstrings.

Yes, ladies. I'm talking about the nerd. That funny, clumsy, sometimes goofy man who, despite the fact that his six pack is in a grocery bag and the only thing chiseled is his hairline, seems to catch my eye anyway.

I don't know what it is about them. Maybe it's their approachability. If you're like me and at the age of forty-four still haven't gotten over those scarring incidents from high school, the down-to-earth, friendly, likeable guy does have his appeal. Unlike the captain of the football team, these are men you aren't afraid to talk to. They're modest, they're nice, they get embarrassed. And when they find their way onto national television, you can bet they're probably rich, too!

(Now wait a minute, I'm not talking Bill Gates. There's nerds, and then there's nerds, and some guys even fistfulls of cash won't help.)

No, I'm talking about guys like Alton Brown, here.

Okay, so he probably won't be edging George Clooney out of his spot as People Magazine's "Sexiest Man Alive", but there is something deliciously appealing about this man, and it's not the fact that he can cook or that he can explain the molecular science behind water purification.

What I love about Alton is his vulnerability. It's the self-deprecating humor that makes me want to overlook that dorky hair spike thing and do something sinfully bold--like show him that some of those uni-task kitchen utensils he complains about actually do have alternate uses, he he.

But Alton isn't the only one. I've also got a fetish for Mr. Mythbuster himself, Adam Savage, and the fact that I do has left me perplexed on more than one occasion.

I mean, for one thing, I've seen the man in his underwear--on TV, you dirty minds!!!--and seriously, Colonel Sanders couldn't come up with a pair of whiter chicken legs. Yet there's something about the guy that makes me want to write him into a book.

I think it's that he's smart yet slightly dangerous. He calculates numbers in his head like Rainman then uses the information to blow something up. I mean, what's sexier than explosives, ladies?! Couple that with his wide-eyed boyish reaction when Buster blows sky high and I'm willing to overlook the impending man-boobs and attempt some combustible science of my own.

Now, I will admit not all nerds are, shall we say, nerdy. If you can't get into a man who's more jiggle than gigolo, science has options for you.

Yep, what would a blog about sexy nerds be without mentioning this man?

Ahhh, Grissom, Grissom, Grissom. You know, I saw William Petersen back in his prime twenty years ago in a movie called "To Live And Die In LA". I'd thought he was okay, nothing to write home about. Yet age him two decades and give him a fascination with bugs and I'm putty in his petrie dish.

But my fascination with Grissom stems from something completely different than the others. He's not vulnerable, or boyish, or self-deprecating. He's funny, but only in a dry, infrequent kind of way. No, what Grissom's got is that calm, cool and quiet thing going. Oh, yeah. What woman doesn't adore a man who's not only flippantly ignorant of his own sex appeal, but doesn't even recognize when a woman's coming onto him?

Just think of the things a bold and sexy Blaze heroine could do to a guy like that without even resorting to a bug suit.

Personally, I'm dying to write a romance that features one of my guys, here. I haven't figured the right angle yet, but I have to believe with enough experience under my belt I could pull off the consummate nerd hero and possibly convert thousands of women over to the bungling side of love.

What do you think? Could you get into a romance novel featuring a nerd, or do you really need those fantasy men to be bad-boy dangerous and bigger than life? And have you read any romance novels that featured the kind of guy I'm talking about? If so, which ones? (I'm making a list ;-) )

Don't forget to check out Private Confessions available now at
And be sure to post because Lori will be picking two lucky commenters to receive a prize package including her book and some chocolates - a wonderful combination!