Saturday, March 31, 2007

Now, for my next trick....

I guess I should be working on punctuality issues instead of eyebrow lifting...

Life got away from me this week and I never posted my winners from Tuesday.


However, I've decided that Smarty Pants, Kathy and my CP are freaks of nature. Geez, guys.

Maybe they can headline and we'll take this whole freak show on the road.

While I was duly impressed by everyone's tricks, I do have two winners, completely chosen based on my own personal biases.

Maureen, you get the gross AND unusual award. Mainly because I have this thing about eyeballs, and the thought of bugging them out just makes me wince.

Lis, you get the cool award (because I'm a Billy Idol fan and always wanted to be able to do Billy's sneer. Elvis's sneer is close enough.)

Lis and Maureen can email me to get little gifites in return for sharing with the class.

Now, about y'all teaching me that whistling thing...


Friday, March 30, 2007

Hope for the Best...

...and expect the worst. That’s usually my plan. I don’t like to think I’m a pessimist, per se, just a realist. I took a chance when I started building my new house. My mortgage company said I could maintain both loans, so I didn’t have to sell my current house before I went under contract for the new one. Of course, no way could I pay BOTH mortgages, but the bank seemed to think so – silly people.

Anyway, so I took the risk and hoped I could sell my house in the six months it would take for my house to be finished. It seems like every week since Christmas, another house has popped up for sale in my neighborhood. The builders of my subdivision were building more houses nearby as well, so I had a LOT of competition. Why would anyone buy my house when they could build one of their own just the way they wanted it?? I was discouraged as prayed that I could get my house together by March 1st. Surely 4 ½ months would be enough time for it to sell.

As I picked out carpet swatches and frantically painted every room of my rainbow tinted house a lovely (boring) beige, I was also working on my backup plan. I needed 5% down in cash, which would be no problem if my house sold, but just in case, I needed to save that much to have for a worse case scenario. My house needed a lot of decluttering, but there was only so much I could do. My realtor and I decided to just go ahead and list and keep working on the house. I anticipated the first few viewings to be fruitless with lots of “cluttered” feedback.

I was so wrong, and thankfully so. Apparently, as cluttered as it is, I had the neighborhood golden nugget. (Who knew??) The house down the street from me that listed 1 week before mine has had 15 viewings, no offers. It had the same layout, but was the slightly smaller one with no fence. Mine was 100+ sq ft bigger, plus I had a privacy fence. I had one viewing on Sunday. I was agonizing all week because no one was calling. No one was going to buy my house.

Monday morning – got an offer. One viewing, one offer. We did a little negotiating and signed on the line. My house sold in a week. The inspector comes next week at which point, we will review any issues and negotiate any fixes. Then the appraisal. Barring the purchaser running out and buying a boat or something dumb the week before closing, I’m set. What a relief! (And for the record, all the other houses in the neighborhood are still for they’re hating me right now.)

So now my stress has shifted to finding a short term apartment and getting moved out of the house instead of just de-cluttering. Taking spring cleaning to a whole new level. By the time May gets here, my house will have a bed, a couch, a tv, and some dishes if I can possibly manage it.

So, spending every waking moment painting, packing and watching “Designed to Sell” has paid off! Of course, I’ve gotten virtually NO writing done in the last month when I was supposed to be doing a writing challenge. Oh well. I'm sure my new house will be the muse I'm looking for. Right?? And, this has served as a righteous distraction from the fact that I didn't final in the Golden Heart. Great timing, I'd say...
When was the last time you were pleasantly surprised?

181/350 = 51.7% complete

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Spring Is In the Air

PM mentioned Spring cleaning yesterday. This is a concept I prefer to pretend doesn't exist. Cleaning of any sort is to be used only as a last resort when my writing isn't flowing the way it should.

But I have been thinking about Spring lately, mostly because here in Alabama we seemed to have skipped it. The morning we left for the beach it was 32 degrees outside. The afternoon we got home it was in the 80s....something's missing here. Of course the fact that we've skipped Spring all together also means we've missed the normal Spring rains and the pollen is atrocious. My silver van is now a sickly shade of misty yellow.

However, it was nice to return home to beautiful green fields, chickens laying eggs, and four of the most adorable baby bunnies. My girls are in heaven. They go to the bunny hutches every night to pick a different baby to take out and play with. Now my favorite season is Fall, but there's just something amazing about holding new life in your hands. And of course the fact that we have baby bunnies for Easter hasn't escaped my notice.

What do you like most about Spring?


P.S. Congratulations to robynl, yesterday's winner for the best de-cluttering tips. Please email Playground Monitor at to claim your prize.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Spring (cleaning) is in the air

It’s invading suburbia -- an insidious ogre, creeping silently and often accompanied by the words “But that might come in handy one day.”

Its name is clutter and it may be caused by bad habits, a packrat attitude and/or chronic bargain shopping. Whatever the cause, clutter leads to lost time while you search for your keys or the bill that’s due tomorrow.

I spent my weekend cleaning our trailer at the campground and yesterday a veteran's group picked up three large bags of "stuff" that I'd cleaned out of our home -- my second such donation to them so far this year. I'm on a cleaning frenzy. When we moved into this new house two years ago I promised myself I'd do my best to keep the clutter to a minimum. Stay out of my way and no one will get hurt. *grin*

Most of us would de-clutter in a heartbeat if we only knew where to start. First, begin with yourself and set a good example. Next, schedule regular de-clutter sessions. Spend ten minutes a day cleaning up, or decide to remove a certain number of items each day. Don’t stop until they’re in a garbage bag and tossed.

Major clutter may call for a marathon session. Schedule this on your calendar since having adequate time increases the odds of success.

One method involves three boxes and a trash bag. In the clean-up area pick up each item and decide which place it goes.

Box #1 is the “put away” box. These items can be saved; they just need to be labeled and put in the proper place.

Box #2 is the “give away or sell” box. Store these items in the garage or trunk of your car til you take them to the thrift store or hold a garage sale to avoid incorporating them back into the household.

Box #3 is for “storage.” Designate a place for this after marking the contents on the outside.

The trash bag is self-explanatory.

Move from room to room until you’ve de-cluttered the whole house. Don’t forget the attic, home of hidden clutter. Several years ago we cleaned ours and discovered boxes for long-gone electronic equipment along with an orphaned ski pole.

After spending most of a Saturday hauling stuff to the curb, it was easy to keep the attic free of clutter; when I was tempted to stash something up there, I remembered how hot that attic gets during an Alabama August.

Getting rid of clutter doesn’t mean it won’t reappear. Sadly, it’s like a bad penny that keeps returning.

One solution uses that old adage “a place for everything and everything in its place.” As long as stuff has a “home” it won’t clutter the house.

Another solution is to establish routines. For example, always put your purse away when you return to the house. Put the newspaper in the recycling bin as soon as you finish reading it. Sort mail when you bring it inside. Toss the junk and file the rest in its “home.”

Adopt a “one in and one out” attitude. When you buy a new pair of shoes, get rid of a pair. Want that colorful vase on sale at the mall? What will you discard if you buy it? This method not only tackles clutter but can save dollars as well.

And last, but certainly not least, clean when you're spitting mad. I'd come close to throwing out my children if I was de-cluttering in a foul mood. That's when I tend to be less sentimental about stuff that really has no value and simply collects dust.

With some scheduling, the right tools and a few rules, you can drive the clutter monster from your home and keep him away.

Happy spring and happy cleaning.

Do you have any good spring de-cluttering tips?

Best tip of the day wins a book thong.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Tricks just keep getting harder to find...

  • The Darling Geek can whistle; so can the Amazing Child. I cannot. Mae West made it sound so easy, but all I get is an airy wheeze. I’ve always wanted to be able to whistle—specifically, I’d like to be able to put two fingers in my mouth and do those really loud “hail-a-taxi” whistles, but I’d settle for just getting out the Andy Griffith theme. DG and AC find my inability to whistle quite amusing.

I am also unable to lift just one eyebrow. Both eyebrows, yes; just one, no. I think it would be neat to be able to show skepticism or surprise by having one eyebrow crook upward, but, alas, I cannot. The best I can do is furrow my brow, which will lead me to Botox in a few more years.

Lifting one eyebrow is also something DG can do. I’m not sure if AC can, but it wouldn’t surprise me if she could.

Counselor Shelley can turn her eyelids inside out. Gross, but yet another thing I cannot (and will not) do.

So what can I do?

  • I can roll my tongue into a taco shape.
  • I can hyperextend my knees until I look a bit like a flamingo.
  • I can rub my belly and pat my head (but not walk and chew gum. That’s tacky.).
  • I have one double-jointed finger, but I can't do anything interesting with it.
  • I can pop my hips (loudly), and I can make the bones in my ankle grind together to make a very disgusting noise.

So there’s nothing really exciting on that list. Hmmm. I guess since my body just isn’t made to do interesting human tricks, I’ll have to cultivate other talents. I’m sure I’ll find a few if I look hard enough.

So what about you? What can you do (or not do, as the case may be)? Surely you've got something better than what's on my sad little list.

I'm going to run my own "interesting human tricks" contest today. Prizes for coolest, grossest, and most unusual are up for grabs! Just list your "ability" in the comment tail.


~~And if anyone can teach me how to do that wolf-whistle thing, I’d be very appreciative!~~

P.S. The Playground would also like to wish a very happy birthday to Maven Linda Winstead Jones!

Sunday, March 25, 2007


I find myself in these very, very hectic days pondering time—lack of it, where to carve out more—and my seeming lack of enthusiasm for getting my butt in the chair to write. Don't get me wrong. Once I start writing I love it, but it has more often than not become another chore, or discipline if you will, on a long list of chores I must complete to be the "perfect" person.

Side note: I know in my head there's no such thing as a perfect person, but this is just my personal neurosis. Since I recognize it as such, I'm going to consider myself marginally sane.

I'm offering this insight less as a whine and more in hopes of a discussion. I can discipline myself to write and I must to a certain extent, but I want to enjoy the process despite the craziness demanding attention in my life... Please, let April be over quickly!!!

I recently came across this passage in Dorothea Brande's Becoming a Writer, a classic published for the first time in 1934 that addresses more about the writer's personality than sentence structure and active verbs. She writes:

"We customarily expend enough energy in carrying out any simple action to bring about a result three times greater than the one we have in view... If we climb stairs, we climb them with every muscle and organ laboring as though our soul's salvation were to be found on the top step, and the result is that we grow resentful at the disproportionate returns we receive from our expended energy.

"Everyone has had the experience of pushing a door that looked closed with more vigor than necessary and of falling into the next room as a consequence... If you notice yourself on such an occasion, you will see that you must make a slight backward motion merely to retrieve your balance... But in changing habits, you will find yourself getting your results far more quickly and with less 'backwash' if you engage your imagination in the process instead of calling out the biggest gun of your character equipment first." ppg. 61-63

I, too, wonder if I have stumbled because I use too much "force" to progress my writing. Like a parent using only punishment to teach a child, rather than mixing in encouragement through positive reinforcement. What if I, instead, encouraged my mind to daydream? To entertain itself with my story as I go about the mundane tasks of cleaning, packing, and child-directing? Positively envisioning myself making time to write a satisfying amount... Jotting notes as my mind fills with the next scene...

I used to do this all the time, but the practice has been swamped under a load of To Do Lists. My mind constantly obsessing over the next thing to be done and where will the time come from? I know y'all know this, but I feel like I'm rediscovering this concept.

What are your thoughts about Ms. Brande's writings?

P.S. Join me in offering a big Playground SQUEEEEEE to Rhonda Nelson—our friend, fellow chaptermate, and a RITA finalist this year for her Blaze book The Specialist!!!!! We love you, Rhonda!


Friday, March 23, 2007

Waiting Game

It’s almost time. Golden Heart and RITA finalists are announced Sunday. Although I’ve managed to forget I even entered it for weeks at a time, my mental radar started pinging today.

Whoop! Whoop! Red Alert! Red Alert! It’s coming!

I’m not expecting much, but I’m still anxious. It would be nice to get that recognition, even if I didn’t win but just finaled. Finaling on its own is HUGE. Heck, entering was big enough for me because I finally had a completed, polished book that I felt was good enough to blow $50 to enter. Good enough may not be good enough, however. There is a lot of competition. I’m the only Playfriend that threw a hat into the ring this year, so I guess I’m the only one all twisted up in knots over it at the moment. It’s a good thing I’ve been able to put it out of my mind because this is such a long process. Enter in November, hear back in the end of March. If you do final, you don’t find out if you’ve won until July... pure torture.

At the same time, I’m not looking forward to getting the judge comments back. At least this one is just a numerical score – they aren’t encouraged to elaborate on why you suck, just that you suck and leave it at that. Oh goody. I’ve actually been trying to decide whether to send my current WIP into a contest or two and honestly, I can’t make myself do it.


Yeah, I know.

So anyway, keep me in your thoughts Sunday. I’ll either be in a hysterical panic because I finaled or a hysterical panic because I didn’t or a hysterical panic because the realtor wants to show my house and the kitchen is dirty. One of these three will most certainly happen and I’m sure it’s the dirty kitchen. DB will see to that.

So...are you waiting for something? A contest entry result? A much anticipated vacation? Chocolate Easter bunnies and peeps? The end of Lent so you can eat meat on Friday's again? Share and let me know how you’re planning to pass the time.


BTW – this writing challenge has been a bust. For all our big talk, I’ve written, like, 56 pages over the course of a month. I’m sure that sounds great to some, but my original goal was 230 pages by the end of March. That gives me, oh, 9 days to write 174 pages and meet my goal. HA!

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
44,000 / 80,000

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Sometimes You Just Gotta Laugh...

To keep from crying. This vacation has turned out a little different than what I'd envisioned when we left at 6 AM on Saturday morning. Lazy days spent on the beach, beside a heated pool, or in a toasty hot tub. Um...not so much. Our pool is broken - it took them five days to get a guy here to tell us that. I spent on entire day in bed with a virus and then the next in a podunk emergency room.

Now, let me preface this story by saying that the people at said hospital were absolutely wonderful. Very friendly, courteous, helpful in every possible way. However, it is in the middle of nowhere and privacy laws obviously don't mean all that much to them. In the course of sitting and waiting for the doctor to see me, I think I heard the diagnosis for every single patient in the emergency room. I studied some woman's X-rayed foot and listened to a discussion about whether an instrument should be ordered (ostensibly for the man next to me trying desperately to hack up the lining of his stomach around some obstructing object - the consensus was no that they would only need it very rarely and I believe they sent said man to another bigger hospital).

I went to this emergency room because it was the closest doctor within a 45 minute drive and my own doctor is on vacation as well. Remind me to tell him that is no longer allowed. I'm certain we've all seen red, bloodshot eyes. But have you seen red and yellow bloodshot eyes? The highlight of the trip was the fact that the hospital was out of saline solution to wash out the dye they'd put in. I'm absolutely certain I looked deranged when I stopped at the CVS counter to fill my prescriptions. Not that it helped me any...I still had to wait an hour.

So, as of right now I'm not allowed on the beach because the sun and sand make my eyes water incessantly and the pool isn't working. Reading my book and watching TV also present a problem because too much hurts my swollen eyes.

While there have been some highlights - like spending time with my grandma, aunt, uncle, and cousins I don't often get to see - this vacation has been mostly a bust. Unfortunately, this places much pressure on my next Scotland :-)


Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Spring has sprung

Today is the first day of spring, or as astronomers refer to it, the vernal equinox. The word equinox means equal night. On this day the tilt of the earth’s axis toward the sun is such that day and night are of equal duration. This happens one other time during the year – the autumnal equinox in September.

You may have read news articles or seen reports on your local television station about today being the day when you can balance a raw egg on end. This apparently comes from a notion that special gravitational forces are in effect today because of the sun’s equidistant position between the earth’s poles.

When I went in search of the truth behind this, I ended up at an urban legends website (or several sites actually) where I learned that if you have an egg that’s just the right shape and you have just enough patience, you can balance it on end any day of the year.

So much for spring and egg balancing.

But while I was at the urban legends websites, I did a little browsing and decided today I’d impart a little urban legend knowledge. So you’ll be able to sleep better tonight (since night and day are the same length) here are twenty-five things you can stop worrying about:

  1. The painted cats you saw in that email aren’t really painted. They are what one website referred to as "manipulated images."
  2. There IS a website where you can donate feminine hygiene products to women’s shelters, but because of overwhelming response to their efforts, they’ve suspended the action until they figure out the logistics of managing cyberspace’s generosity.
  3. Microsoft will not send you a check for forwarding a particular email. There is no software that can track an email from one computer to another. So just delete it and move on.
  4. Likewise, Nike will not send you a free pair of shoes if you send them your old ones.
  5. Go to and click on the appropriate button to fund a mammogram for a low-income woman. You can do this every day and help another woman protect her health. And please be sure to get your own done when the doctor says it's time.
  6. You cannot cook an egg between two cell phones.
  7. Pringles are not made from recycled McDonald’s French fries.
  8. Women’s purses ARE a hotbed of germs, especially the bottom. Use an antibacterial cleaner to wipe off your purse, don’t sit it on the kitchen counter where food might be close by and think twice about setting it on the floor in a public restroom.
  9. AOL is not going to start charging for Instant Messages.
  10. Pop Rocks and Coca Cola didn’t kill Mikey and the combination won’t kill your child either.
  11. The following photos have been circulated around the internet and titled “Alabama Wedding.” We in the great state of Alabama are more than delighted to announce they’re fake. The first photo shows what is purported to be an actual cake at a 1998 wedding reception in Iowa and the second photo with the smiling newlyweds was a 2004 entry in a Photoshop contest called “If Rednecks Ruled.”

  12. There are no missing shipments of UPS uniforms nor large numbers of them purchased by terrorists on eBay. eBay banned the sale of UPS uniforms in February 2003. So stop worrying about what brown might do to you.
  13. The lyrics to “Louie, Louie” aren’t dirty. They ARE unintelligible because the lead singer had strained his voice the night before, he was wearing braces, the mike was too high to pick up the sound well and what the band thought was a rehearsal was actually the only take for the recording.
  14. Chewing gum doesn’t take seven years to digest if you swallow it.
  15. Coca Cola is not an effective spermicide.
  16. Magic Eraser doesn’t contain formaldehyde, which is great news to several Playfriends who swear by it. Scrub on!
  17. Rice thrown at weddings won’t kill birds. It can, however, make for slippery walking conditions.
  18. The flush toilet was not invented by Thomas Crapper nor was the brassiere invented by Otto Titzling.
  19. Dr. Seuss wrote “Green Eggs and Ham” after his editor challenged him to write a book with less than fifty different words.
  20. The “Star Trek” theme has lyrics.
  21. The youngest mother on record was a five-year-old girl Peruvian girl who gave birth in 1939.
  22. Eating celery DOES result in negative calories.
  23. Eelskin wallets won’t demagnetize a credit card.
  24. Hotel key cards don’t contain personal information.
  25. allows the public to send free personalized postcards to US troops overseas.

And if you have money to burn, you can put your photo on a tissue box and you can personalize M&Ms .

What’s YOUR favorite urban legend and/or favorite crazy email? Anybody else find it hard to believe folks actually fall for that Nigerian bank scam?

P.S. Our winner from yesterday is Michelle Buonfiglio! Please email the Problem Child to claim your prize.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Guest Blogger Linda Winstead Jones

We are the luckiest Playfriends on the planet, and we know it. RITA-winning, bestselling and uber-cool author and Maven Linda Winstead Jones is here today! The first book of her new trilogy, Prince of Magic, is available now, Prince of Fire will be available in April, and Prince of Swords will be out in May.

Linda has written romantic suspense and historicals, but her paranormals are huge now. If you, like me, wonder where the ideas come from, Linda is here to talk about making that leap out of the ordinary.

Give a big Playground welcome to Maven LJ and make her feel at home!


What led me here?

Those of you who hang out at the Playground know me fairly well. I comment on occasion, if life and my computer cooperate. When I was trying to come up with a subject for my blog, I thought of all the questions a writer usually hears. One stood out. Why do you write paranormal?

There are lots of reasons why I enjoy paranormal romance, as a reader and as a writer, but that’s not really the same as why or – even more important – how.

It’s summer, 1995. My first three historical romances are out and I’m contracted for a couple more. I get a phone call from my editor. They’re starting a fairy tale romance line and would like me to submit an idea. Since I’m a newbie, this is not their first call of the day. All the traditional romantic fairy tales – Beauty and the Beast, Rose Red, Cinderella – have been taken. After the call is finished, I end up pacing in my living room, muttering to myself. My youngest son, then eleven, walks into the room. For the purposes of this story, we’ll call him Baby Boy. (Trust me, he’s going to HATE that. Such is life.) Baby Boy wants to know what I’m doing, so I snap my fingers in his direction and say, “Fairy Tales. Name some fairy tales.” His first response is “The Three Little Pigs.” I shake my head (though later . . .) and say, no. This needs to be a romantic fairy tale. So he offers “The Three Bears.” Again, I shake my head. “No, this has to be a romance.” He reasonably suggests that at the end of the story Brad Pitt can jump through the window and save Goldilocks. No, No, I say. The hero would have to be one of the bears.

Light bulb moment. Yes, the hero could be one of the bears. I ended up with the three Barrett brothers and Someone’s Been Sleeping in my Bed. Baby Boy asked for two percent of anything I made off his idea – and got it. Two percent was just so reasonable I couldn’t refuse.

No, SBSIMB was not a paranormal story, but it was my first trip out of the box. It was my first attempt at looking at a story from a different (and slightly askew) angle, and it led to more twisted fairy tales (yes, including those pigs) and a couple of time-travels, then to Victorian ghostbusters and psychics and three witches set in a world I created. Most recently, it led to Prince of Magic, Prince of Fire, and Prince of Swords, where anything can – and does – happen.

Like most fiction, it all started with what if . . . and a dozen years later my brain is still in that mode. What if? Who knows where it will take me next?

Linda will be around today to answer your questions, so ask away! One commenter will recieve a copy of Linda's Let Down Your Hair Faerie Tale.

(And can I just add an editoral comment? LJ, your Princes are hummina-hummina yummy!)

Monday, March 19, 2007

Crafty Angel

I'm posting late this morning, because I slept in. Give me a little leeway here, it IS spring break....

This weekend I got to spend the evening with Smarty Pants doing the one thing we enjoy that the other playfriends don't do: scrapbooking. We start talking about paper, ribbons, and layouts and everyone else's eyes start to glaze over.

I've always been a crafty sort of person. I started out early in my teen years doing cross-stitch, sewing, and quilting. I love to make homemade gifts that try out various techniques and I've even started making a few bracelets and beaded gifties (though I'm not nearly as talented with the beads as Playground Monitor). But if I had to choose one craft I love, the one I invest the time and money into, it would be scrapbooking.

I've always taken lots of pictures, so scrapping them just became a natural extension of my photo bug. I'm not as original or talented as some—my creativity works with words, not pictures—so I tend to "scraplift" from magazines and books. But the satisfaction of seeing the finished page or looking through my albums makes me do a little happy dance.

I've found one other benefit to scrapbooking, besides pretty pages and down time, and that's the boost to my creativity. When I indulge my scrapbooking urge it tends to open the flow of my writing endeavors. I'll come up with ideas for scenes, be able to picture characters and their traits, and find myself generally more receptive to creative ideas. You'd think I'd do it more often, huh?

Do you have a favorite craft or hobby that you enjoy? Do you find it enhances your creativity in other areas? If you aren't "crafty", have you ever wished you enjoyed a certain craft?


DON'T FORGET: Tomorrow we welcome our fabu Maven Linda Winstead Jones to play with us on the blog! Come join the fun.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

The Coolest Online Workshop Ever

For all you RWA folks out there headed for Dallas this summer, Counselor Shelley has put together an amazing 2 week workshop.

Help us pass the word! Send folks here or feel free to copy into an email and forward it to anyone you think is interested.

(Even if you won't be going to Dallas, but plan to attend a regional conference, this workshop is for you!)

Surviving and Thriving at National: Seven Ways to Accomplish More in Dallas and Still Keep Your Sanity.

Dates: May 30-June 13, 2007

Cost: $20

You’ve polished your pitch and bought fabulous, yet comfortable, shoes. You’ve planned your schedule and packed for every possibility. But are you really ready for the RWA Conference? The stress? The nerves? The overwhelming toll on your energy reserves? Would you like to feel more confident or out-going?

Licensed Counselor Shelley Visconte presents a 2-week online workshop to help you get the most out of National while keeping your sanity intact.

Workshop sessions include:

*Projecting Competence and Confidence

*Maintaining Energy

*Overcoming Fear and Anxiety

*Maintaining Inner Peace and Calm

*Extroversion for Introverts

*Establishing Boundaries for Extroverts

*Increasing Self-Confidence


Instructor bio:

Shelley Visconte is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist with seven years of counseling experience. In addition to her private practice as the Director of Red River Counseling, Coaching, and Consulting ( ), Shelley is the resident counselor and advisor for the writers on The Writing Playground ( Her own experiences as an artist and her duties on the Writing Playground have given her a unique perspective on the needs and neuroses of writers and have made her a popular speaker at RWA chapter meetings in the Southeast.

Full details and registration at the Heart of Dixie website,

Questions? Contact the Coordinator at

Friday, March 16, 2007

Luck O' The Irish

Tomorrow is St. Patrick’s Day. This year it’s a Saturday, thank goodness, so I can keep from getting pinched all day when I forget to wear green to work. Somewhere, someone will be eating corned beef and cabbage (not at my house). Someone will be drinking green beer. Dye will get dumped into the river in Chicago. People everywhere will be getting in touch with their long lost Irish heritage to earn kisses from strangers at bars. People will be lining the streets of Manhattan to watch the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Last year, I was freezing my behind off while I watched from the entrance of the Met.

I will be continuing to paint my house and possibly steam cleaning my carpet. Lots of excitement there, I can tell you. Although I’m a good chunk Irish (my relatives in Chicago are UBER-Irish, our side went Kentucky hillbilly) all of it doesn’t mean much to me. In grade school, it was all about cupcakes in class with shamrock candies and pinching the unfortunates...thinking about rainbows and pots of gold, getting three wishes and digging through the grass for an elusive four leaf clover. Now it’s just another day – and an annoying one at that if you decided to wear your favorite pink sweater.

What say we bring some of the magic back? There’s too many WW points in a cupcake, but no calories in wishes! If you followed a rainbow to its end and found a pot of gold, what three wishes would you ask the Leprechaun for? (And no more wishing for more wishes...this Leprechaun has rules!)

I would wish for:
- a magic bank account that would always have enough money in it to buy whatever I want or need without running out, so I could quit my day job and spend my time doing what I love
- excellent health and longevity for me and my loved ones
- world peace (fans teary face)

(Who will be wearing the shamrock angel pin a co-worker brought her from Ireland at Christmas...just in case.)

Thursday, March 15, 2007


I'm getting ready to go to the beach, or rather I'm getting my entire family ready to go to the beach. I know, some of you are thinking, "Didn't she just go on vacation?" Yes, but I'm going again. Although, this is actually classified as work :-) The fact that my company is a family owned business and that we choose to have our Board of Director's meeting at the beach during AEA week is just one of the many perks to the job (right behind being able to take my girls to the office with me).

Don't get me wrong, there will be some work involved on my part. My responsibility is to keep connected to our home office (which won't be staffed) and handle any urgent business that comes in. Although, what I'm really looking forward to is a week of sand and sun to work on the revision request I received last week. I really think sitting in the hot tub underneath the stars will help those creative juices :-). I am looking forward to a solid week of concentrating on my writing though - the benefit of having DH, grandma, grandpa, aunties, and great grandma all available for babysitting.

At this precise moment though...I'm buried in lists. Lists of things I need to pack. Lists of things the company needs to purchase in preparation. Lists of things I need to get in order at the office before we can leave. Lists of information that need to be provided to both of the owners and their wives. Sure all these lists are in my head but they are there. Unfortunately, I've not been able to tick many of the items off just yet. Here's hoping I can remedy that today.

Do you have any special plans for Spring Break?


P.S. Kissandtell has won the book thong. Please email Playground Monitor to claim your prize.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Extreme Office Makeover Revisited

According to my desk calendar, today is "National Organize Your Home Office Day." Regardless of whether your home office is just for your personal business affairs or for a business that generates revenue -- or both -- your productivity, your quality of life and your peace of mind will benefit if it's organized.

In January of last year I blogged about Extreme Office Makeover. I have my own office in the house and I wanted to create a sanctuary -- my own little enclave where I can retreat to create or read or like I did this afternoon after a morning of washing windows, nap. It's been a long time coming, but after haunting every sale for the last two months, I've almost got it done.

This is before.

And here is the "after" in various stages of development.

My desk before I hung some art over it and before I moved the silk fern (is there any other kind?) where it actually goes. I also put a red-striped French memo board beside the desk to hold photos, cards and the like. You'll see it a little later on.

A small antique desk I use for craft work. I got the valances at Lowe's. They are a red and beige check -- hard to tell in the light. The old lamp from my son's bedroom in the other house is still sitting in the corner.

The futon with the art that will go over it. It's metal art and I just have to get the DH to help put it up. Requires the laser level. Notice the attractive tv tray end table? :-/ But I do have a new floor lamp now.

After a month of trying to order a table online, and having it damaged both times it was shipped, I told them to refund my money and I found this end table at Hobby Lobby on sale. Looks better than the tv tray, doesn't it? And I have cut the tag off. I just wanted to make sure before I did. The leather magazine holder came from Ross -- on senior discount day. *g*

I framed three of my magazine covers to go over my desk. Neat, huh? I'd never have thought of it but the decorator I bought the futon from suggested it.

I'm not sure where these are going but I think they may be a new mantra for me: Live, Love, Laugh. It sounds like a great way to go through life.

Here's that French memo board I mentioned earlier. I notice here that I need to tidy up my cords. That's the cell phone charger and I'm sure I could find a place where it is unobtrusive.

And remember the tall bookcase from the "before" shots? I moved it and it fits perfectly between the doors. I also got rid of a smaller bookshelf (it's currently in my garage and holding boxes of luncheon stuff) and really pared down my book collection.

I'm enjoying my new digs, but I have to re-train myself to write in here. I've gotten so used to writing at the kitchen table because the "old" room just wasn't really conducive to creativity.

I know that our blog visitors are a combination of writers and readers. So my question is this: Do you have a special place where you write? Or if you don't write, is there some place you really, really love to curl up with a good book? What makes is special?

One lucky commenter today will win a handmade book thong -- another of my creative efforts.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Vanity Pants

Riddle me this, Batman.

I was pretty skinny in my college days. Blessed with a high metabolism and a neurosis about my weight, I looked pretty darn good—especially for someone who never met a donut she didn’t like. Depending on the cut and maker, my clothes were in the 5-6-7 range for size.

Fast forward 15 years and 25 additional pounds (darned metabolism slowed down after my 30th birthday). I may not fall in the “heifer” range, but there’s definitely more of me than there used to be. Yet what size are the pants on my body right now?

Size 6.

Yep, you read that right. Somehow I’ve miraculously managed to gain a two-year-old on my hips and still wear the same size I did in college. Hmmmmm…

We wonder why the American public is overweight. If you can continue to buy clothes in the same size you always have, why bother questioning that additional flesh?

I have a skirt in my closet from the Gap that’s a size 4. I was never a 4 in my skinny days, and I know for darn sure my current butt is not an actual size 4. Let me tell you, though, I did a happy dance around the dressing room when I slipped that 4 on (completely ignoring the jiggling cellulite that proved I was no size 4). I could have looked like death in a taco and I still would have bought that skirt, simply because it was a 4.

Vanity sizing, they call it. I call it insanity. It’s bad enough women have never been able to actually be a size. Men never have the joy of taking three of the same pairs of pants in different sizes to the dressing room because a size 8 is not standard across the board. The clothes in my closet range from a 4 (my lovely little skirt) to a size 12 (a pair of pants that hurt me just to look at the label). I cover the whole Small-Medium-Large range. I think clothing manufacturers actually hate women and get an evil giggle out of watching us try to decide what size we are today…

As I type up this little rant on the injustices of clothing designers and the increasing girth of my thighs, I can’t help but notice the collection of books in my TBR pile. I’ve never been a fan of the “hook” titles some of the series lines favor, but now I’m starting to see the attraction. When you pick up a book titled “The Millionaire Cowboy’s Secret Pregnant Bride,” you know exactly what the book will be about. No question about it. No trying out “Love’s Secret Splendor” and “The Willow and The Fern” hoping there might be a millionaire cowboy waiting inside.

So where am I headed with this post?

I don’t know. It’s a rant and I tied it into books.

What kind of titles do you like? The "hooky" ones, or the more poetic (if vague) ones? Have you ever bought (or not bought) a book simply because of the title?


Sunday, March 11, 2007

Eye Candy

It's started, that part of the writing process that I love unconditionally. Pre-writing! The brainstorming stage. The chance to wade through the "what ifs", the "what abouts", and savor those tantalizing AHA moments. Though I don't get all the details down before I start writing, I'd honestly say I plot out about 70 percent of my book that doesn't change. The rest changes with the characters, unexpected twists and turns, and those lovely lightbulb flashes.

This weekend, I got to scour the internet for one hot man. No, not just any man, The Man. My HERO. You see, in the plotting stage for my book I have to visualize my hero, and that process just happens to include a hunt through eye candy.

This is the life, isn't it? :) Or should I say, at least this job comes with some perks.

Anyway, thought I'd bless y'all with a peek at the new guy, the man who will be filling my thoughts and dreams for the next several months at least. Shh, don't tell my hubby.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Now, I don't watch soap operas, but some of you ladies might recognize this guy as Aiden Turner, a British actor on the daytime soap All My Children. Hot, isn't he? Can you just imagine him with a 6 o'clock shadow and brooding look? I can!

The last few books I've found it very helpful to have pictures of my hero and heroine, just to make them come alive in my imagination. Plus I don't get halfway through the book and wonder what color his eyes were. :) But when I go searching for pics, I find myself shying away from really well-known celebrities or people very prominent in the media.

Why? Well, then I can't imagine them to be who I want them to be. That public persona keeps getting in the way, especially if it is someone I don't care for or who has played a character I can't stand. I keep saying I'm going to break this rule and cast Oded Fehr (the Mummy movies) as one of my heroes, but I just haven't found one that clicks with his foreign mysterious looks.

So, what's your favorite hero type? Where's you favorite place to glean pictures or ideas for heroes? Any favorite hotties?!?!


Friday, March 09, 2007

The Gift of Positive Thinking

“If you don't like something change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude. Don't complain." - Maya Angelou

I ordered all the Playfriends a gift off the internet the other day. Not so much a gift, really, cause it was free, but something interesting if they want to make use of it. Last week when we de-funkified, the topic of a book called the Divine Matrix came up. The gist was that everything is connected and your attitude toward the world determines how your life goes. If you think you’re going to fail, you will – that sort of thing. I know I’m not the only negative ninny in this bunch, so the other day, I heard something interesting on the radio that caught my attention.

A church in Kansas City, MO has started a campaign for a “complaint free” world. You can check them out at The pastor of the church challenged his parishioners to go 21 days without the negative whining and complaining most of us do on a daily basis. They each wore a purple bracelet and if they complained at any point, they had to move the bracelet to the other arm and start their 21 days over again.

If you haven’t heard about this yet, you’re in the minority. It’s sweeping radio and television news programs like the Today show. There was an article on him in the recent People magazine. They’re going to be on Oprah. Apparently, this is a life changing experience for those that are able to make it through the 21 days. By putting only positive energy out into the world, they’re happier, more positive people. Imagine that!

If you go onto their website, you can order the bracelets free. They don’t charge a dime, although they do give you the option of making a donation to the church either via paypal or with the envelope included in the package with your bracelet. I donated enough to cover the cost of the bracelets and shipping. So far, they’ve had orders for over 323,000 bracelets. Wow.

I’m not giving the bracelets out with the expectation that everyone use them, but I, myself am going to give it a shot. I’ll probably have to start over seven or eight times (the first day) but if this will help me garner more positive vibes in the universe, I’m all for it! I’ll let you all know how it goes.

In honor of that, I’m declaring today Fabulous Friday. Got something great going on that you’d like to share? Please do! It’s Friday, there has to be something good, even if its just because the weekend is upon us! :)
Oh, and yesterday's blog winner is Pat! Email your info to with "Blog Winner" in the subject line to claim your prize!

Writing Challenge: 174/350 = 49% complete!

Thursday, March 08, 2007

10 Things

Well, it finally happened. I forgot it was Thursday. I got up this morning. Got the girls dressed, fed, their lunches packed. Dropped Sweet Pea off to school. Ran to the gym to squeeze in 30 minutes. Dropped Baby Girl off to school. Drove to work. Sat down at my computer. And said, "Oh Hell." :-)

So, as you can imagine I have nothing much to say. So I'm going to shamelessly steal an idea from one of our good friends Rhonda Nelson and play a little game. I'm going to list 10 things about me that you might not know. Then I'd like everyone to list some things about themselves that we wouldn't know. There will of course be prizes, mostly because I feel guilty.

1. I come from a HUGE family. My mother is the oldest of 14 children. I have a cousin who is 1 month older than my oldest child. In fact, I have cousins younger than my kids. My youngest aunt is 1 year older than my husband. It makes for loud, interesting family get-togethers.

2. I was in the color guard in high school - you know those people twirling the flags out on the field. I did that because I couldn't play the saxophone and hated the flute.

3. Summer before Senior year I went to Colorado for World Youth Day where catholic high school students from all around the world gathered to listen to the Pope speak.

4. I love camping. As a child we used to camp on Lake Michigan during the summer.

5. I love the ocean but hate getting in the water.

6. I spent my 7th birthday covered in calamine lotion after I contracted swimmer's itch from the lake we had rented a cabin on. It was not fun.

7. When I was five my sister had an allergic reaction to cold medicine and hallucinated snakes everywhere. She was tearing off her clothes, tearing off my clothes, screaming down the hallway. This is why I'm terrified of snakes.

8. When I was eight my brother disappeared. My mother couldn't find him anywhere. She called in the police. Had the residents from the assisted living center behind our house out combing the woods. The neighbors were all called into action. After a couple hours he crawled out from under my parent's bed where he'd decided to play hide and seek (forgetting to tell my mother) and fell asleep. Apparently, he curled up into a shadowed corner and simply blended in when no less than five people checked under that bed.

9. Um, I'm running out of unusual favorite color is green?

10. I wanted to be a ballerina when I was little.

Okay, now it's your turn. Let us get to know you a little better.


P.S. Don't forget that we've started a new contest - Red Hot Reads. You can enter by emailing me at Give me your name, email, address, and how you found us for a chance to win a great basket full of books, chocolate and red hot fun.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Imagine this...

Imagine this.

You've just won the biggest lottery in history and after taxes you're still rolling in money.

How would you spend it?

Would you buy yourself a mansion?

And how about a maid to clean the house, do the laundry and ironing, zip to the grocery store every week and make sure the dog and cat are fed?

And a butler to handle the rest?

Oops! Wrong butler. *g* But wouldn't he be fun to have around?

Or a fancy Maserati?

A shiny Rolex with a diamond bezel?

A BIG diamond ring? This is Elizabeth Taylor's Krupp diamond. It's a mere 33.19 carats and Liz wears it every day.

Or maybe you'd just like to wear jewels on your feet. The Playfriends have seen these sandals up close and personal. *g*

How about a relaxing vacation in Tahiti?

Or a week at a fancy spa where they pamper you, slather you in all sorts of stuff and you don't have to cook your own meals.

Then again, there's always breakfast at Tiffany's.

Or imagine a lifetime of chocolate.

What about all the books you could ever read? And the time to read them?

I'm not sure exactly what I'd do if I had that kind of money. It would most likely involve a lot of retirement planning, security for family members, charitable donations and no mortgage.

Actually, I AM rich but not in the way I described above. I have a husband who supports my writing. I have two grown children who are making their way in society. I have a daughter-in-law whom I adore and she's a wonderful mother to my precious granddaughter. My mother and my husband's mother are in good health for their ages. They have some problems but not overly serious or life-threatening. My sister and I have discovered the joys of the empty nest and "girl road trips" and plan to take another one this year -- maybe a short cruise.

I'm also rich in friends, most notably four women with whom I share this blog and there just isn't a price tag to be put on that.

What would you do it you won the big jackpot?

I didn't win a jackpot, but I did start reading a new book on Monday. It involves a 12 week program to unblock your creativity and part of the program is a weekly "artist date." It's a block of time you set aside each week to nurture your creative self and refill the well so to speak. This afternoon I'm taking in a chick flick matinee all by my lonesome. The DH is in a volleyball tournament and I'll be playing bachelor girl so why not? I might even treat myself to a hamburger at Wendy's afterwards. Cue the "Hey Big Spender" music. *g*