Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Cyber-Suck

I’m just going to check one little thing. Real quick. Just pop over to the website, see if so-and-so posted that article she promised, then it’s straight to work.

Yeah, right.

Next thing I know, DG comes in to tell me he’s tired of waiting on me and is going to bed. Ack. Two hours gone and what do I have to show for it? A tired wrist from mouse usage and knowledge I didn’t need on the conspiracy theories regarding the judging on So You Think You Can Dance. How in dog’s name did I end up there?

Don’t I know that the internet is nothing but a giant time-suck for me? One click leads to another, and to another, and soon enough I’m lost in cyberspace.

I’m either going to have to develop willpower (yeah, right) or else DG will have to disconnect my internet access before he leaves for work in the morning. My email addiction is bad enough—now I’m haunting sites for no good reason. I can’t even claim it’s “research.”

A few dangerous sites for me:

Etiquette Hell—Where the terminally tacky and unbelievably rude burn forever. The site owner just updated with new stories. With 34 categories and 10+ new stories per category… well, you can imagine the time I can waste there. And should I mention there are archives going back to the late 90s? It’s like a train wreck—you can’t help reading on. And if that’s not bad enough, there’s a forum going 24/7 to rant about the tackiness in life between updates on the main site.

Fark.com—Not quite a news site, but you’ll certainly get the news you might miss otherwise. Dedicated readers submit links to the interesting and unusual happenings in the world. Clicking though the links is time-killing enough—don’t wander into the comments section or you’ll never get out.

Statcounter.com—Yes, that nifty little button PM added to the sidebar is a time-suck for me. I can obsess endlessly over where our blog visitors are coming from, what terms they put into Google that led them to us, how long they stayed on the site…

Snopes.com—This is the site where you come when you need to know if that story about the guy who had his kidneys stolen in New Orleans is true or not. No urban legend is safe here. I can usually limit myself to the “What’s New” page, because I’ve spent so much time on this site over the years, I think I’ve worked my way though most of the archives already.

Oh, and of course there’s the daily visits that have to be made. Blogs I have to visit (and comment, and then check back to see if anyone has commented on my comment). The site where I can check my horoscope, my numerology report, my Chinese sign forecast, and my tarot reading of the day. My obsessive visits to our blog can’t be ignored either.

I’ve set myself some serious goals that have to be met once AC starts back to school. Limiting my time on-line will be one of them (and will have to be done if I'm going to make any of the other goals.). I can’t go cold turkey, but I’m going to have to cut waaaaaay back. You’ll know if it’s working cause I’ll be the one over in the corner twitching slightly from the withdrawal.

So what sites are major time sucks for you? Which ones just seem to draw you in for hours without you realizing it. Please DON'T give me the URL—I don’t need to be spending more time on the internet—just describe what kind of site it is and why it sucks you in.

I’ll give away a copy of Joanne Rock’s Hidden Obsession to one commenter—let you kill some time the old fashioned way!
PC

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Guest Blogger: Barbara Vey of PW

The Playfriends are proud to welcome guest blogger Barbara Vey, women's fiction blogger for Publishers Weekly online! (And I'm especially honored because she's the first ever to guest blog on my day.) The Children were priviledged to be introduced to Barbara and interviewed by her at RWA's National Conference in Dallas. I'm here to report that she's warm, talkative, and can put the most nervous introvert (namely ME) at ease!

This woman knows her romance and her authors, and today she'll tell us how she sort of fell into this job... Please help us welcome Barbara to the Playground today!

One of my most memorable experiences at RWA was meeting the Children. They charmed me with their stories and boundless energy. It was contagious and soon as I was as excited as they were about Kira’s first sale and the thrill of being interviewed by Publishers Weekly (little did they know that I was the excited one. This was the first time I was asked to guest blog).

The Playfriends enjoyed the story of my journey that led me to the enviable job of PW blogger for women’s fiction, so I’d like to share it with you.

In April 2006, I was fortunate enough to go on the Author’s At Sea cruise. This was my second trip with the authors that included one of the Mavens, Beverly Barton and her handsome husband, Billy. I am such an avid reader and fan that I read a book by every author on the cruise and had a spread sheet with the names, titles, characters and synopsis (nerd alert). Also on the cruise was Karen Holt, deputy editor of Publisher’s Weekly magazine. She was walking by with a tray of food and I asked her join me and Marjorie Liu, paranormal author extraordinaire. Being an avid book reader, I’d never heard of PW, so I thought Karen worked for a publisher. I immediately began to tell her everything I felt was wrong with the publishing industry from a reader’s point of view (and believe me, I had a laundry list).

To Karen’s credit, she was extremely gracious and took notes that ended up in an article in PW. Marjorie, sweet thing that she is, just smiled and nodded. Apparently Karen was taken with my quick wit and extraordinary knowledge of books and authors {blush}. She asked me if I’d write reviews for PW. I declined, explaining that I could never say a bad thing about a book since I felt authors put their hearts and souls into writing them.

Fast forward to March 2007. I receive an email from Karen asking if I’d be interested in a new venture for PW, blogging about women’s fiction. Once again I refused. After all, I’m a reader… not a writer. Then she moved on to hard tactics by calling me and trying to soften me up by saying how “perfect” I would be for the job. I called my son who explained what a blog was, told me it was just talking on the computer and showed me some online blogs. After reading a few, I thought, “I can do better than that and I even know spelling and grammar."

So began my blogging career. I’ve been kind of making it up as I go along. First thing I did was contact two local authors to practice interviewing, 2007 Rita winner Lori Handeland and Shari Anton. I also do surveys, talk about things that bug me and offer Your Turn Fridays where I tell what my reads are for the week and invite others to do the same.

In April, I attended the RT Convention in Houston and just returned from RWA in Dallas. Both amazing adventures that I couldn’t have imagined 6 months ago.

I should also mention that in the past 22 months I have lost 112 pounds. So, at the age of 55, I now have a new body and a new career. You never know what’s waiting for you around the next corner.

I learned my lesson and have stopped being a naysayer. My advice is to be prepared to say “yes” when opportunity comes knocking, it could be a dream come true.

Barbara before her weight loss:


Barbara after: She's in the middle. Check her out!!!


Isn't that awesome!!! In addition to any questions you'd like to ask Barbara, why don't we celebrate her wonderful accomplishment by posting the one dream we'd love to say yes to! What's the one phone call you'd love to get? Besides a publisher wanting to buy your book, of course!

As always, one lucky commenter will receive a prize pack. Today I'm giving out a beautiful metal bookmark I fell in love with in Dallas, along with three books from my replenished stash.


Angel

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Weekend Fun

Hope everyone's having a great weekend!

I wanted to send out a reminder to our readers that Monday we will be welcoming Barbara Vey, a blogger for Publishers Weekly, who will be talking to us about her wonderful journey to becoming a cool PW employee. You won't want to miss our new friend's wisdom! So come join us with your hoorays.

While I'm here on the blog, I couldn't help but post some of the pictures from our trip to the Dallas RWA National Conference. I hope you enjoy them! You'll be able to find more available on our website soon.


Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Playground Monitor (R) with Best Romantic Novella RITA Winner Roxanne St. Clair

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Us with fellow Heart of Dixie members after the RITA Awards Ceremony

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Instigator's critique partner, author Lori Borrill at her first-ever author signing

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Our best-dressed Mavens with (L) Best Long Contemporary RITA Winner Lori Handeland

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Instigator dressed up for one of her publisher events. Very exciting! (She looked much thinner before I shrunk the picture, I swear!)

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Playfriends all dressed up at the Harlequin party

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Angel (L) with author (and fellow chapter member) Sherrilyn Kenyon . My sister is so envious!

Cool, huh?!?!

Join us Monday, there will be discussion and of course a chance to win goodies.

Angel

Who's Your Movie Star Boyfriend??

I saw this on plotmonkeys and just had to give it a whirl. Take the quiz to find out who your Movie Star Boyfriend would be. Of course, it doesn't hurt that my answer came out...

Johnny Depp
A little Depp'll do ya indeed, no? Rebel with a clue Johnny Depp is sexy no matter what the role he's playing, no matter what the hair and facial fur situation and no matter what wacky ensembles he puts on his bod. In fact, his looks are often as unconventional as some of his movie roles, and thank God for that... The only thing predictable about him: that he's likely to be unpredictable, and we're often in awe of just how his creative mind works (the incredibly detailed creation of his Captain Jack Sparrow character from Pirates of the Caribbean, for example). On the other hand, he tempers some of that off the beaten path behavior with a devotion to his family and friends that is unshakeable; the man admits enjoys playing with Barbies with his daughter! That is so hot.

Take the quiz then post to let us know who your Movie Star Boyfriend is!

Friday, July 27, 2007

Forgetful Friday

I have this feeling like I’m supposed to have done something. In the words of Pooh, “think, think, think.” Oh yeah. It’s Friday. I’m supposed to blog. Knew I missed something last night. I kept looking at the computer and thinking – I’m supposed to do something on there tonight. Get on myspace? I can do that later. There’s something else. What was it?

Well, here I am, in all my unprepared glory. My issues are compounded by a v-e-r-y s---l---o---w internet connection at work today, so you’ll be lucky if you read this before 10 AM or so. In that case, I won't be able to read your comments because I’m leaving work early today to meet the lovely gentleman that will be delivering all my new living room furniture. I went nuts several weeks ago at a local furniture place and the bulk of it is coming at last. My dining room set came Tuesday and it looks great. Maybe this weekend I will actually be able to get my downstairs in order. Heh. We’ll see. Depends on how long I have to spend at the Madison County office getting my homestead filed, changing my drivers license, paying my vehicle registration, and changing my address on that. Of course its three different lines. There goes my afternoon...

To make up for it, I’m having a massage and a facial at a very nice spa here in town tomorrow morning. My mom and I are going as a little afternoon treat. I’m hoping I don’t break out from all the abuse. Later that night, I have to attend a going away party for a friend who’s moving to Orlando, so I have to look good.

I think I was one of the only cars on the road this morning – no one works Fridays in this town. Must have big plans before school starts up again. Do you have any fun plans for the weekend? Are you getting the kidlets ready for school or do you live in an area where you get a few more weeks off?

SP


P.S. Here are our winners from yesterday. Please contact Karen with your name and snail mail address to claim your prizes.

Winner of the autographed book and the bracelet: Sue A

Winners of coupons good toward purchase of a copy of The Bracelet: PC's Mom, cas2ajs, Jen, Nini, Pat L, jenna, Stacy S, Cherie J, Maureen and sabrina

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Guest Blogger: Karen Rose Smith

Please join me in welcoming Karen Rose Smith to the playground today! We're really excited she joined us on the swingset for a discussion of her latest book The Bracelet. It's an August Everlasting Love release that looks absolutely fabulous! Our very own Playground Monitor has gotten an early preview and raves about the journey of this hero and heroine through a lifetime of love. Welcome, Karen.


My latest book--THE BRACELET--is different from the storylines I usually write. It is a love story but in a much broader context. THE BRACELET is a book conceived in my heart with a plotline that flowed easily because of my experiences in the 1960’s. Although fiction, it is set in my hometown of York, Pennsylvania and has more of “me” in it than any book I’ve ever penned. It's my 59th. I know--what took me so long? Maybe the passing of time and the right venue.

Every novelist writes a book at some point in her career that is quintessentially “hers”…that book which reflects her life experiences in pure fiction yet pure feeling. I attended college in the late sixties and early seventies. I was part of the moratorium day for peace that swept the country, especially on college campuses. As I wrote to a serviceman in Vietnam, I waited hopefully and fearfully for each letter from him. In 1969 my husband and I faced the draft lottery. The plotline of this book unfolded so naturally that at times the emotional depth of it and the memories that rushed back were overwhelming.

This book is a personal book. My childhood neighborhood is my heroine's childhood neighborhood. Brady's childhood neighborhood is where some of my friends lived. Each landmark I named--like the hospital, the library and the Yorktowne hotel--has a personal significance for me. That's why I included pictures of them on my website (http://www.karenrosesmith.com/). I also included a photo album of the Vietnam Memorial for the same reason.

Although THE BRACELET practically wrote itself, capturing the devotion and the turmoil in my couple’s thirty-three year marriage was a challenge that sometimes left me breathless with the joy of writing. This book might look like a “category” romance on the outside, but THE BRACELET is a novel about the Malone family, how the Vietnam War affected Brady Malone’s life as well as impacted his future. It is a novel about Laura, the woman who loved him deeply enough to be devoted to him for her lifetime in spite of what he experienced…in spite of the tears in their marriage…because of the bond with Brady that enveloped her heart the first day she met him at an anti-war demonstration on the York, PA courthouse steps.

What happens in the past, stays in the past? Never. Brady’s experiences impact every relationship he has. Suddenly he realizes he could still lose Laura if he can’t finally form a bond with their eighteen-year-old adopted son.

THE BRACELET is an emotional family story as well as a love story. I know I will probably never write a book that affected me as much as this one did. And now that I've written this type of book, I know I need to write more of them to keep me creatively alive. I like writing category romances and I can't see ever giving that up. I love plotting the perfect couple and a wonderful happily ever after. I've always been able to include secondary characters in my romances. But now I want to explore them more completely. I want to delve into the relationships that in category I'm forced to keep on the surface.

I wrote THE BRACELET as a single title. In its original version, there was more emphasis on Brady's and Laura's son Sean, his POV and his life. I had to change that because my editor wanted more emphasis on the couple. I made the changes because there was so much more to this book that was important to me to see in print. But next time, I want to do it all.

For 59 books I thought I was writing the books of my heart. But now I know what that phrase really means.

I'm going to sign off with a few questions for you to think about or post on. Are you writing what you want to write? If not, what keeps you writing what you are writing? Do you know what you want to write or does it change from season to season, year to year?

Peace and love,
Karen Rose Smith




One lucky commenter will receive an autographed copy of THE BRACELET plus this beautiful one of a kind Swarovski crystal bracelet in pastel shades. Other commenters will be selected to receive discount coupons good toward the purchase of THE BRACELET, which will hit the stands on August 1st.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

And Baby Makes Three

Note that I've posted two blogs today. And please come back tomorrow when author Karen Rose Smith guest blogs with us.

Here at the Writing Playground, we eat, sleep, breathe and write romance, so I'd like to tell you a romantic story.


Once upon a time, identical twin girls were born and grew up dreaming of meeting two charming princes and having families of their own. When one of the twins -- we'll call her
Tara -- went to college, she met another girl who was an identical twin -- we'll call her Dana -- and they became best friends.

Tara met her Prince Charming -- we'll call him Dan -- and they got married, fully expecting to have a house full of babies and live happily ever after.


But that didn't happen. Instead, they became very well acquainted with something called infertility. They went through all the tests and procedures that infertile couples must endure, including in vitro fertilization. That didn't work either. They'd been married for more than five years and the infertility was beginning to take a toll on their relationship. So they began to look for another plan.


Enter "Plan B" -- gestational surrogacy. Tara and Dan had buns -- embryos left from the IVF. They just needed an oven to bake them in.

But who do you ask to give up nine months and her waistline? Who could you trust to go through labor and delivery and hand over the baby without fear of reneging on the deal?

Meanwhile, Dana had married her own handsome price and given birth to two beautiful
children. She wanted more children, but the prince didn't. She was aware of her friend Tara's infertility situation and prayed for God to take away her desire for another baby and to bless her friend with a baby of her own.

When Dana heard about Plan B, she thought and prayed and discussed it with her family. And in a most unselfish act of generosity, she volunteered to be the oven. She'd get to experience pregnancy one more time, and Tara and Dan would have a baby with no fear that the gestational carrier would change her mind.


Have you ever noticed the "Next Blog" button at the top of this blog? I noticed it last fall and with one click I learned about Plan B just about the time the embryo transfer took place. I read the archived files and this amazing story unfolded.

I was hooked. Just like a good novel, I had to know what happened next. Did the embryo transfer work? Did Dana get pregnant?


Yes she did! And on the first try too. I read every day as we learned that only one embryo implanted. But it looked healthy and all systems appeared to be go. A bleeding scare about a month later had us all scared, but it turned out to be a not-too-uncommon uterine hematoma that resolved itself.


Then just before we were to learn the baby's gender, Tara's father died unexpectedly on
Christmas night. He'd been so excited about his forthcoming grandchild (Tara's twin has two children but also had infertility problems). So when the ultrasound tech announced "It's a boy!" it became quite clear what the baby's name would be. He'd be named for his grandpa and he was due on July 4th.

Blog readers were kept up to date on Dana's progress during her pregnancy and we were treated to ultrasound photos, pictures of the nursery in progress and scenes from baby showers.

We also learned how thoughtless some people can be. When Tara told someone about Plan B, they remarked, "Oh... I see... you're taking the easy way out. No stretch marks!!"


Easy way? How about the tests? The cost? The disappointment? And did I mention in January that Tara began having severe abdominal pain. On a hunch, her twin sister purchased a pregnancy test and the result was a surprising, first-time-ever positive. The pregnancy was ectopic though and was resolved with medication. Easy way out? Suuuure.

The blog readers even had a pool going on ExpectNet.com to guess the baby's birthdate, length and weight. I joined in, picking June 30 because of the full moon.

A few weeks ago I typed in the blog URL and saw that Dana was in the hospital; her husband and Tara were her birth coaches. The other twins were there too for moral support.




Thanks to the free wireless at the hospital, we were given a fairly real-time commentary from the waiting room. At 11:56 PM on July June 28, Plan B made his appearance and Tara and Dan were finally able to hold their flesh and blood in their arms.


Please give a big cyberspace welcome to the blogosphere's newest little miracle.

Say hi to Charlie.






Had any miracles in your life lately?

No weeds in my garden today

You're getting a two-fer today, though I wish it didn't have to be. I hate to spoil the joyous mood set in the other post. But just as there is black with white and dark with light, sometimes the storm clouds gather and rain on the parade.

The Playfriends have been listening to me talk about this for about a week now. Last Thursday an online friend from Michelle Buonfiglio's Romance by the Blog took her daughters to the beach near their home in Williamsburg. Five-year-old Hannah was caught in a riptide and drowned. Her memorial service was Monday afternoon at 2:00 PM Central time and if we celebrated Hannah's homegoing in any way, her mom Rachael had asked us all to blog about what we did.

Up front let me just say that any of you who own stock in Kleenex should see a sizeable increase in your dividends this quarter because I've cried since I heard about Hannah. I'd never visited Rachael's blog before but I've poured over this testament to a mother's love for her children and her sincerest efforts to keep her daughter's memory alive.

Hannah loved to dress up. She loved to explore the great big world she lived in. And at age five she'd already discovered the power of the diva inside all of us. So it was only natural that her mom would ask those who attended her memorial service to dress in their "Fancy Hannah" clothes and come attired in boas, sequins, tiaras and fairy wings.


But what about those of us who could only be there in spirit? I pulled a tiara from atop my bookcase to wear at two o'clock. I wasn't sure what else to do. I don't have many sequins; I have no boas or fairy wings. But when I went outside Monday morning to check my gardens, I discovered a beautiful red rose blooming as well as a single lily in my lily bed. Lilies were Hannah's favorite flower. I snipped the lily and the rose, added a few sprigs of purple fan flowers and some rosemary from the herb garden and then discovered that the recent rains have revived my gerbera daisies I added two of them to the bunch.

Instead of focusing on the bermuda grass that's hell-bent on taking over my flower beds, I focused on the flowers. I looked for the beauty and saw it in abundance. And as I was doing that, I noticed my birdbath just full of bathing beauties.



At two o'clock, I put on my tiara, looked at my bouquet and said a prayer that God would wrap this family in His loving arms and help them travel through this sorrowful time in their lives. I pray their love and faith will keep them strong. Rachael is all about motherhood. I pray she finds solace in the memories of Hannah and continued joy in the life of her other daughter Lily. Rachael has a tremendous online network of people supporting her and whether her husband knows it or not, we're supporting him as well.

I've never met Rachael or her family, but she's as dear a friend as if she lived next door. And her loss is as tragic as if it were a member of my own family. And in a way it is. Online "friendships" are often the butt of jokes or the subject of much doubt, but in the face of this tragedy, I've seen a remarkably strong and mighty sisterhood swoop down and look after one of their own.


Rest in peace, Fancy Hannah. We'll never forget you.




Have you hugged your family and counted your blessings lately?

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

And back I go...

As you read this, I’m back in Texas.

Unlike the trip to Dallas just over a week ago, this trip is designed to be pure family fun. No high heels. No worrying about my pitch. No wondering if I made an ass of myself in front of someone I’ll want to submit to one day. Nothing to iron. No girdle and it doesn’t matter. I may even go braless (I figure the chances of an editor being there and recognizing me are pretty slim. Watch me be wrong.)

Now, bathing suits and the impossibility of finding one that looks good on me is another rant entirely. I'm considering a Burqini.

Sea World and Schlitterbahn, here we come. Hopefully, Texas will dry out some and we’ll actually get to go and do things. AC is really looking forward to seeing Shamu and rocketing down water slides. (Side note: Spell Check does not like “Shamu.” I figured he was some kind of icon and would have made the dictionary by now…)

I’ve spent the week between trips to Texas catching up on stuff—emails, articles I owe people, and following up on folks who, in a moment of weakness, agreed to be interviewed for the Playground. Once I get back, I have to buckle down and get some work done. You know, like finish that book that the editor requested the full of—my CP will be getting lots to read.

But Nationals always gets me moving. I think it’s a mixture of inspiration and shame. I’m inspired by the energy of the conference, the stuff I learned in workshops, and the success of other writers. I’m also shamed by their productivity and realize I Must Get To Work.

Shame is a powerful motivator for me.

What motivates you?

PC

***
Y’all weren't very forthcoming on the embarrassing stories last Tuesday, were you? They were that bad, huh? Too painful to share? ~snort~


Technically, I’d like to give my prize to our Playground Monitor for admitting she owns “grandma shoes,” but since I benefited from them (and they were comfy), I’ll refrain. So the winner of most embarrassing story of the last seven days was cherie j. Email me (problemchild@writingplayground.com) with your address and I’ll get a surprise in the mail to you once I get home.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Memories



My Sundays lately seem to be chock full of activity. Yesterday we had Little Man's third birthday party. This shouldn't have led to a late night, but his cousins stayed with us and I didn't get everyone to sleep until around 10:30pm! I remembered I needed to blog around midnight, as I drifted off to sleep. Then the confusion of getting up to four children who need to be fed instead of two, and my focus was in a totally different arena.

My mind has been whirling since I got home from conference and I've been rearranging my office according to a workshop I attended there. It got a nod of approval from those Playfriends who attended last night. I won't get to paint until later this year or early next, but I'm arranging everything and hanging pics in the meantime. I'm very excited! And know this will help my production, especially once the kiddios get back into school next week.

I can't believe school is about to start. It seems like this summer just flew by, mostly because I was gone for the majority of it. Maybe now things will settle down into a rhythm and I can get my brain back. Not likely... :)

I'd have to say I have 2 favorite memories of the summer of 2007:

1. Wandering the ruins of Kilchurn castle in Scotland. The combination of lapping water, sheep farm, nooks and crannies, and incredible vistas will stay with me forever.

2. Watching my children grow. While they've both had growth spurts this summer (Drama Queen now reaches to my chin!), they've both taken on new responsibilities and abilities this summer. I'm reminded both that they won't be this age forever, and that their growth is a wonderful thing.

I'm just rambling this morning, but I promise coherency next week. Mainly because I won't be speaking! Next Monday I'll be hosting my first guest blogger, Barbara Vey of Publishers Weekly. She'll be telling us how she landed the job that gives her the opportunity to meet talented authors and aspiring authors like us. I hope you'll join us for the chance to get to know this warm and friendly lady!

Until then, what is your favorite memory of the summer of 2007?

Angel

Friday, July 20, 2007

And the winner is...

The winner of the book and Bertie Botts is....Joye! Are you brave enough for vomit? We'll see...Please email me at smartypants@writingplayground.com with your snail mail address and I'll send you a list of books to choose from. My stash has been recently replenished by oodles of books from conference!

SP

Jailbait

As I’m writing this, there are 3 days to go until I am no longer considered a dirty old woman. On Monday, Daniel Radcliffe will be 18 and although I’m 10 years older than him and it’s still creepy, I’m no longer courting a felony in my head. It’s all just a fantasy of course, because even if I flew over to England and plopped on his doorstep, he’d have nothing to do with me. And DB would be quite irritated. I still feel naughty just for thinking it, though.

It’s awful, really. A couple months ago, when everyone started talking about him appearing nude in the play Equus, I thought – well, that’s not right cause he’s only 12 or something. Wrong. He was 17 and to prove it, they started issuing all these grown up photos of him with a beard and half naked – no wands or wizard cloaks in sight. My first thought was – that’s just wrong. He’s trying too hard to break the kiddie persona and distance himself from his ingrained character.

But then they started releasing photo stills from the latest movie. Intriguing. He seemed very intense in all the pictures. Then, Thursday before last, Maven Linda, Angel, Kathy and myself went to see Order of the Phoenix in Dallas. As the photos had shown, he’s looking quite grown up, although he’s clean shaven, etc. in the film. There were a couple scenes where I thought – hmm...look at that. He’s growing up quite nicely. Then my internal alarm starts going off screaming “jailbait, jailbait” and I force myself to focus on the plot of the movie again.

At the airport gift shop coming home (we had lots of time to kill – flight delays) Details magazine had him on the cover and the article had more photos of him looking very adult – one even had him bare-chested in a leather vest, his chest hair out for all the world to see. Ack! Now, I have to admit the vest is a little too Village People for me, but those eyes – those are what get me in trouble. And the biceps. And, well...nevermind. (I included the photo originally, but I felt dirty and took it off. If you want to see it, go to the Details magazine website.) I think in another 10 years, when he's a full grown man, I will feel much better about those thoughts. I'll still be 10 years older than him, but I won't feel quite so naughty when he's almost 30.

So, the movie was awesome, if you haven't seen it. I recommend a digital theater or IMAX so you can catch the true experience of the last 30 minutes or so. And of course, tomorrow the book comes out. Amazon will be dropping my copy on the doorstep, so I'm very excited. There's much discussion on how the book will end. (Since I originally wrote this, a bunch of spoilers have cropped up on the internet. For the sake of our readers trying to be surprised, please don't mention any spoilers in your posts.)

Have you gotten wrapped up in Potter-mania? Will you be in line at midnight to get your copy and find out how it ends? Any hopes for how the series will end? (hopes, not spoilers!) I know I'm hoping Snape turns out good (just love Alan Rickman, and I can lust guilt free there) and that Neville hands Bellatrix her head on a platter. Seen the lastest movie? Are those not the bluest eyes you've ever seen?* Ok, enough questions for now - one commenter will win a book and a box of Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans! I dare the winner to eat the vomit one!

SP

*Mel Gibson held the title before, but he's just getting too darn weird these days and so I've dethroned him from my personal list.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Signs

You know, I'm a firm believer in divine intervention. For the most part, we try to stay away from controversial topics on the playground, religion, politics... But sometimes things happen.


A few days ago, I was driving home from a day where nothing seemed to go right. I'd fought with the girls all day and seemed to do nothing but punish, discipline and fuss. My work wasn't going well so I was frustrated with everything and everyone. I was extremely happy the day was finally ending.


These kind of days don't happen often, and when they do I understand. I know it can't be a ball of fun for the girls to spend the entire day at the office with me. They can't scream, yell, run, play loudly, bicker.... The list of can'ts is much longer than the list of cans. But they don't have to deal with it very often so when they do we all just do whatever it takes to get through (and I bribe with ice cream and trips to the park).


Frustrated and in a foul mood, I did not hold out great hopes for the night ahead. But a sign I saw on the way home changed everything. It put a smile on my face and reminded me that sometimes it's better to keep your mouth shut (which is definitely what I needed to do because by that point I was on the verge of saying things I would have regretted the moment they left my mouth). So I want to share the prayer I saw on a church billboard:

Lord, please keep your arm around my shoulders
And your hand over my mouth.


I think this is my new mantra. What's yours?

Instigator


P.S. Sue A, you're the winner of a copy of RAINTREE: SANCTUARY! Email Playground Monitor with your name and mailing address to claim your prize.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Guest Blogger: Beverly Barton


You've read about RAINTREE: INFERNO. You've read about RAINTREE: HAUNTED. Now's your chance to read about the last book in the trilogy.

Beverly Barton, author extraordinaire, Steel Magnolia and one of our beloved Mavens, is guest blogging with us today and there's just not a whole lot more I can say other than (1) read this blog entry and (2) read her book. Read all three books, actually, because it's a terrific story and a great example of teamwork and what can be accomplished when you put your mind to it. Please make room on the playground bench for Beverly Barton.


As with the Raintree trilogy, writing the third installment of the Raintree blog messages means I’m tying up loose ends and doing my best not to repeat what Linda Howard and Linda Winstead Jones have already said. They have given you the background for the books, told you how it all started, about our marvelous trips together and our obsession with this trilogy, and covered various aspects of their own experiences. So, what’s left for me to tell you? What’s left for me to say?

Planning and plotting this trilogy was fun. Writing it was hell. Thankfully, my story came together like a gift from the writing gods, but I paid a high price in blood, sweat and tears for this wonderful blessing. I faced three great challenges in writing the third book, RAINTREE: SANCTUARY. (1.) I had to tie up all the loose ends of Books I & II, as well those of my own book. (2.) I had a hero who was also the villain. (3.) My hero and my heroine planned to kill each other through more than three-fourths of my book.

Tying up loose ends for my book should have been relatively easy, but it wasn’t, not when my book was intricately connected to two other books. I had to give not only my hero and heroine, Judah and Mercy, their happily-ever-after, but I had to make sure readers knew that Dante and Lorna, and Gideon and Hope got theirs, too. And I had to provide the resolution to the ancient battle between the Raintree and Ansara clans. I knew from the very beginning that since Judah was the Ansara Dranir and almost the mirror image of Dranir Dante Raintree that Judah could not become a Raintree subject, could not become a Raintree, and he could not be a loser. So how does a man such as Judah, whose clan cannot win this ancient battle, come through the war as a hero and a winner? See my predicament?

I’ve never written a book where the villain was also the hero. I believe one of the greatest challenges of my career was having a hero and heroine who, almost through the entire book, knew they had no choice but to kill each other, eventually. Talk about revving up the sexual tension between a man and a woman! In order to make Judah redeemable, I had to make sure that the Ansara, although they were the “bad guys” in the trilogy, were not inherently evil as a people. The best way I know how to describe the difference between the evil Ansara and the Ansara as a whole is to compare them to the Mafia. There are a few members of the Mafia who are pure evil, who derive pleasure from murder and torture. But as a whole, crime (even murder) is simply business to the any crime syndicate. They love their mates, their children, their families and friends. They are loyal and often religious, but they do not hesitate to use their power to protect what is theirs, by whatever means they deem necessary.

From the very beginning, Linda and LJ claimed the Raintree brothers, just as I claimed their sister. We instinctively knew which character belonged to us. Linda wanted Dante, the Dranir, the ruler, the Raintree with the power over and the responsibility for his clan. LJ wanted Gideon, the middle child, the brother who would rather die than be Dranir, and the one who tried the hardest to live a “normal” life. And I chose Mercy, the empathic healer, who dedicated her life to the clan as the Keeper of the Sanctuary, the one to whom all Raintree came when they needed physical, mental or emotional healing.

I look back now and I find it amazing that the three of us never argued about anything while plotting/planning this trilogy. We are three very different types, each equally strong and stubborn. It was as if when one of us tossed out an idea, we all three instantly knew if it would or would not work, if it was right or wrong. The only time we even slightly disagreed over anything was when Linda and LJ decided Dante and Judah had dark hair and I told them that Mercy was blonde. They told me she couldn’t be blonde, that she needed to be dark-haired like her brothers. But I couldn’t change Mercy. She was blonde and that was that.

We each had authority over our individual book. Other than making sure we kept the interwoven plot line consistent through all three novels—which was much more difficult than we had originally thought--we pretty much wrote our stories the way we envisioned them, with little or no input from the other two writers. We were able to do this only because we are friends. Dear friends. We respect each other and acknowledge that our differences as writers and as women add a richness to our friendship that would be lacking if we were more similar in any way. This diversity gave our readers three connecting stories, with three Raintree siblings, each as unique as the three writers who created them.

One lucky somebody will win a copy of RAINTREE: SANCTUARY. You know the drill. Comment in order to qualify. And as an added bonus, here's a photo of the Raintree authors taken last Saturday night at the RWA national conference in Dallas. Left to right they are Beverly Barton, Linda Winstead Jones and Linda Howard.


The Children and The Mavens in Dallas


And last, but certainly not least, RAINTREE: SANCTUARY is sitting at #5 on the Waldenbooks Romance Best Sellers list, it's #49 on the Barnes & Noble online sales list and is #31 on the New York Times e-list.
SQUEEEEE!!!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

It's not easy being PC

Dallas was great. I had a blast, met lots of fantastic people (many of whom will be appearing on the blog or site sometime in the future), and came home with a thousand ideas.

But it wouldn’t be a PC event without embarrassment and injury. Sigh.

We’ll start with a public service announcement. The conference is not officially over until you are safely in your car/house and positively sure there’s no one else from RWA around. Just because it’s Sunday morning, that does not mean it’s safe to run down to the lobby for a latte with no makeup and no bra. Heck, I figured most folks were gone, and since I wasn’t wearing my name tag, no one would know who the braless, makeupless wonder was. WRONG. Going to the lobby sans bra and makeup practically GUARANTEES you will run into someone you respect and/or admire. Someone you’d normally only want to see when you’re looking somewhat professional and competent. Someone who knows who you are (on sight)—not someone you can just avoid. Sigh. Yes, I spent twenty minutes talking to an editor while wearing that just-rolled-out-of-bed look. And braless.

Oh the irony.

So there’s the embarrassment. On to the injury.

Observant blog readers will remember a toss-away comment last week about a “knee crisis that nearly derailed my conference experience—not to mention my wardrobe.” Not so toss-away after all, it seems. Last week’s issue was a tibia popped slightly out of place. My chiropractor popped in back in, and I felt tons better. Still a little sore, yes, but not enough to cause any major problems (at least to me, that is. The person I shared a bed with would probably disagree. I kept propping it up on her in the middle of the night when it started to ache. Sorry.).

I probably should have babied it a bit more. I probably shouldn’t have done The Twist at the Harlequin party. I definitely shouldn’t have forgotten that I wasn’t a 17-year-old cheerleader when “Mickey” came on. The other Playfriends knew something was up when I quit dancing half-way through the song and expressed deep interest in my water glass. The only phrase that comes to mind is “hurt like a bitch.” It was not a good rest of the evening. I don’t like to cry in public. I don’t like having my friends feel like they need to leave a party on my behalf. I don’t like being in pain.

Saturday was interesting. I pulled out my handy ACE bandage (the one I’d packed just in case) wrapped it up as tight as I could, and tried to go about my day. Thankfully, Maven Linda had a pair of black flats I could borrow. I took three Alleve on an empty stomach, and went to my editor appointment and three workshops. Since my Rita dress was short, I went without the bandage and in my three-inch stilettos (Vanity is also a bitch.) Everyone thought I was crazy (they didn’t know I’d had several drinks to dull the pain.) I’ll spare you the other details of Saturday, but lets just say that when the Mavens and the Playfriends gang up, you are no longer the boss of you. Nag, nag, nag. I went barefoot for a lot of the evening—not by choice. (And I really loved my shoes.)

But wait, here’s where the story gets slightly amusing.

I went through the Dallas airport in a wheelchair. Escorted by the Playfriends (who did allow me to at least go to the bathroom by myself, but no other walking.) Picture me, in a wheelchair, with Kira’s enormous pillow and some carry-on luggage freewheeling it through the airport (my Playfriends are good at many things—wheelchair pushing is not necessarily one of them. SP got me stuck on the jetway ramp. Instigator ran me in to something.) It’s probably a good thing we were all very tired. Otherwise, things probably would have been very interesting.

I think Angel has a picture. Now there’s one for the scrapbook.

But it’s great to have friends who care. We only nag the ones we love, right? And if you can’t make fun of your poor, injured friends, who can you make fun of? It, like so many other things on the Playground, simply bonds us closer together.

So I’m headed to the doctor this morning to find out what’s wrong. Bets are currently being placed on Torn Cartilage, Crushed Cartilage, Bone Chip, ASL, MSL (I don’t even know what those last two are—those terms are courtesy of the cable guys who came to the house this morning). Feel free to jump in the betting pool. Personally, I’m holding on to the hope that it’s just a sprain. Or maybe something that only requires some physical therapy to be good as new (or as good as my knee can get. It’s been bad for about 17 years now…) I’ll post an update when I know something.

Hope everyone else had a great conference—or at least a great week while I was gone. In honor of my conference experience, I’ll give prizes for Most Embarrassing Moment or Most Painful Moment of the last seven days.

UPDATE: The doc seems to think it's torn cartilage, but I need an MRI to be sure. Sadly, that must wait until after I return from vacation. Right now, drugs, rest, and a huge knee brace will have to get me through.


Monday, July 16, 2007

Delayed Reaction



We made it back from conference late last night, and my husband and I were up even later talking, so I'm running behind this morning. I slept in, but had to get up eventually because the hubby had to go to work.

I have utmost respect and sympathy for those Playfriends who had to get up early and head into work today. I'm not sure how you managed it!

Conference didn't actually seem like as much of a whirlwind this year. I attended some really good workshops, listened to great speakers at lunch, and just generally got to hang out with friends. I made a few new friends and ran into some old ones who actually remembered my name!!!!

But my daughter expressed my own feelings exactly when she said this morning, "I'm SO glad to have you home." And Mommy has never been SO glad to be home. I'm through traveling until October and I'm extremely glad about that.

I have a whole list of plans, not the least of which is to get moving on my book. But also on my office, since I attended a workshop on how to arrange it according to learning style. Really cool. I figured that one would be useful, since we just moved to a new house and I haven't had the chance to do much with my office. Ideas are flowing as I'm just sitting here.

I'm sure y'all will be hearing lots from all of us about conference this week, and we've planned a special article in September that will include highlights from our favorite workshops.

But for now, I'm going to cuddle with my babies on the couch. I'll check back in to talk again later today.

If you didn't attend conference, what is your most burning question? If you did attend, what was your favorite part?

Angel

PS: I hope this is vaguely coherent. I've read through it twice to correct all the typos, but my brain doesn't seem to be on high alert today. I have no idea why?!?! :)

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Conference Update

DG here...

They've been spotted. PC tells me everyone is having a great time, but there has been one particularly good high point (among many other high points). They ran in to Barbara Vae of Publisher's Weekly, who has asked them for an interview. Of course they agreed.

The interview itself isn't ready for publication yet, but Barbara has mentioned the Writing Playground in her blog:

http://www.publishersweekly.com/blogger/2670.html

I'm sure all the playfriends will have many stories from the conference for you next week. Well, after they work out what I've changed all the passwords to...

Ask Us (Almost) Anything...


Today's the last day--we'll be home from Dallas tomorrow, and we'll be wrestling control of the blog back from DG and our blog friends.

Kim W poses an unusual question...



Name five things that can always be found in your grocery cart.

Playground Monitor:
Starbucks coffee (for the DH), lettuce (we eat lots and lots of salads), strawberries (when they are in season and reasonably cheap), plain yogurt and lowfat mozarella
cheese.

Instigator: Pretzel goldfish, chocolate milk, Special K chocolate drizzle bars, a smart ones meal (or several) and cheese.

Smarty Pants: Granola bars of one variety or another (this month I'm loving the Kashi Chewy Trail Mix bars), 100 calorie snack packs to keep at work (love the Grasshoppers and the Quaker Mini Cinnamon Streusel), cheese (string cheese, bonbel, laughing cow), Yoplait light and water flavor packets. I'm a snacker.

Problem Child: Diet Coke with Splenda (the "with Splenda" is the important part. I can't stand the taste of the other stuff.), Quaker Caramel Quakes for snacking (yummy and crunchy and diet-friendly), organic milk (because it really does taste better), various cheeses like Laughing Cow, BabyBel, white cheddar, and American for AC (seems we're cheese freaks here on the Playground), tofu (I can whip together dinner in 5 minutes with a box of tofu. It's kind of my fall-back meal option).

Angel: Dr. Pepper (for the hubby), juice of various flavors (for the kids), paper plates (I don't believe in dirtiing up dishes unless I absolutely have to, because then I have to wash them.), cheese (the pre-shredded kind, usually for some meal or another), and milk (2% for the kiddios, 1% acidophilus for me).

****Thanks, Kim. Contact PC for your prize.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Ask Us (Almost) Anything...


Friday the 13th is a lucky day...you get two questions today for the price of one.

Beth R asks,




What's the hardest discipline for you as a writer?
And
Do you ever suffer from writer's block, and if so, how do you handle it?

Playground Monitor: The hardest discipline for me as a writer is simply making myself sit down and write. I can find a dozen and one excuses NOT to write and they include laundry, ironing and pulling weeds in the flower beds. Pathetic, huh? As for writer's block, I have had it and still get it from time to time. What I usually do is set aside whatever isn't working and work on something else. I've had this vacation romance short story that I've been angsting over for months. It just doesn't want to translate from my brain to the page. So I shelved it and began working on something else and the new story went fairly smoothly. Hopefully I can get back into the vacation romance soon. I sell to magazines and the money from those stories funds a lot of my writing activities. I've learned that dollars can be a powerful motivator.

Smarty Pants: The hardest discipline for me, like PM, is to just write. If the words are flowing, great, but when I hit a wall, write myself into a corner...I haven't quite learned how to push myself to write anyway. To get words on paper, even if its crap, and trudge ahead. I tend to get stuck in the middle - I think a well arched plot is one of my weaknesses. I can't see where I'm supposed to go next, so I just stop. I don't know that it's writer's block, so much, but avoidance. When I do hit a wall, though, talking with others about the story really helps. It gives me ideas and gets me fired up about the story again. If I'm not fired up, I have a lot of trouble making myself work on it.

Problem Child: Yep, that whole "Butt in the Chair No Matter What" is the toughest thing for me. If I get stalled or frustrated, I'll be rearranging my sock drawer in no time. I'm working on it, though. I think if I can just get back into the habit, I'll be in good shape (and I'd better get my butt in the chair--I have requests!!) As for writer's block, I think the first thing to do is to figure out if it's really writer's block or if it's something else. Being sick, caring for someone who's sick, dealing with a stressful situation with the family (or work)--tragedy and emergencies often makes us think we're blocked, but in actuality, it's just stuff that has to be dealt with before the words can come. All of my writer's block can usually be traced to something external--once the external is dealt with, I can usually get back to the book. True writer's block? Ummm, thankfully I've never been there. I'm not sure how I'd deal with it.

Instigator: Well, the obvious answer is finding the time to devote to writing. And it is difficult. But I think the thing I struggle with most is feeling guilty over taking that time. Inevitably, it's time I could have (and often feel I should have) spent with my family. Yes, I know my girls aren't neglected and the fact that I worry means I'm not as crappy a mother as I sometimes feel I am. That doesn't always take the guilt away though :-) However, now that my writing is bringing in money, that guilt is slowly diminishing.

I suffered from writer's block when I was pregnant with Baby Girl. There were literally 10 months I couldn't write a single word. However, the creativity returned about 6 weeks after she was born. Other than that, I don't really get writer's block. Yes, I get stuck, but I've discovered several things I can do to combat the snarl in the story (and it can always be traced back to a problem within the story. Every last time). I brainstorm with the playfriends and/or take a shower or bath (not at the same time though). Different people can often pick up on the problem I'm too close to the story to see (and when they do I always smack myself in the forehead because it was soooo obvious). And there's just something about water that helps me brainstorm. I'm weird that way. What can I say?

Angel: I think PC and Instigator make a great distinction between types of Writer's Block. I've suffered from both. Like Instigator, my first serious bout with WB came during my second pregnancy. Oddly enough, at the same time she was pregnant too! We definitely helped each other through that tough period. I swear it was the "boy" hormones that completely drained my brain of its ability to function. My creativity started to return when Little Man was about 6 weeks old, though it didn't really take off until he started sleeping through the night at 11 months.

In this instance, I don't think there was anything I could have done to bring back the easy flow of words, because it was a physical problem. But I worked as best as I could in spite of it and sold my first (and second) short story during this time. Book length was just beyond me. I could only embrace my creativity and protect it as it returned.

But I've also experienced what PC talked about. Recently I did renovations on my old house, sold it, and moved, within a short period of time and among many family issues. The problem here was that I simply couldn't devote time to writing. And when I did have time, my brain couldn't function well because of so many worries.

I wish that I had continued to make writing a priority from the beginning, if only for 15 minutes per day. It seemed hard at the time, but not nearly as hard as trying to re-establish the habit. If I had it to do over again, I hope I would make that choice.

But after the fact, I've had to learn to re-establish that habit. I've set aside time early in the day to at least focus on my book (not easy with kids at home for the summer). For the first week I just brainstormed and immersed myself in plot, reconnecting with the characters and conflict. Then I set up a writing challenge with our RWA Chapter's Goals Group to have someone else to hold me accountable. I only required myself to write 1 page per day, 5 days a week. But it's been enough. I'm in love with my story again, and it's flowing so well I almost dread Nationals because I know it will once again interrupt the cycle.

Guess I've gone on enough, huh? :) Definitely the hardest discipline is making writing a priority, especially when you don't see the light at the end of the publishing tunnel anytime soon.



***** Great questions, Beth.
Contact PC for your prize!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Ask Us (Almost) Anything...


Today's question comes from blog friend Robyn L:






What did you pack for your trip that you just couldn't leave home without?

Problem Child: If you could see my luggage, you know there's more than one thing I can't leave home without. :-) But if I had to narrow it down, it would be a toss up between the Downey Wrinkle Release and Diana Drummond Hand and Body Lotion. Wrinkle Release is the greatest thing--especially if you hate to iron. You just spray the item, give it a good shake and maybe a smooth or two, then hang it to dry. Voila! No wrinkles--no ironing. No, it doesn't give the same sharpness of a real iron, but it's wonderful when your "business casual" clothes have been shoved in a suitcase. My Hand and Body lotion multi-tasks. I use it under my makeup as a moisturizer because it's so light, but it's hardy enough to use all over. Temperature, altitude, humidity levels--that lotion helps my skin cope.
Now, let's talk about shoes and clothes...

Playground Monitor: I absolutely, positively cannot leave home without my medications. I have RLS -- Restless Leg Syndrome -- a condition that causes you to have a creepy-crawly feeling in your legs at night. But I'm sure that's not what you really wanted to know about my suitcase. I've discovered PC's Wrinkle Release and it's handy for sure. But I'd have to say it's a toss-up between comfortable shoes and a sweater because I'm always cold.

Instigator: Hmm, that's a hard question to answer, everything is essential (or I wouldn't pack it. I swear. Seriously. Stop looking at me that way you guys!) While the clothes, shoes, coordinating accesories and matching make-up are all important...I think the most important thing is my schedule. And for those of you who know me, the fact that I have one at all should tell you something :-) There's so much to do, I have every hour of each day scheduled with workshops, lunches, meetings... Without that schedule I'm liable to forget something very imporatnt.

Smarty Pants: I must must must have my hair products, especially the spray detangler -Pantene and V05 are my favorites. My hair tangles into a big ol mess when it gets wet and without it my hair ends up frizzy and poodle-like by the time I get it unknotted. Add in a cheap bottle of hotel provided 2-in-1 shampoo instead of my Pantene Curl Definition shampoo and conditioner and I might as well forget it. For proper curlage, I must have my Pantene Curl Definition gel too. My hair care regime cannot be altered - if I change brands expect a catastrophe of massively frizzy proportions.

Angel: I must respond along the same lines as SP once again. Though it isn't the shampoo and conditioner I need. It's the curl defining spray and my blowdryer/difuser. It doesn't matter if a blow dryer is provided by the hotel, I still have to take my own. Why? Because my difuser will probably not fit on the hotel's dryer. If I don't use a difuser on my hair when I fix it every morning, my curly hair ends up frizzy and flat. Not pretty!

Since we were trying to save space in our luggage for the Scotland trip, I went to a beauty supply store and bought a "universal" difuser. Supposed to fit on any dryer. Since PC had a dryer with the right plug, what's the point in carrying mine? Problem? My "universal" difuser wasn't so "universal". It kept sliding right off the end of PC's dryer. I couldn't even get it on the few hotel blow dryers we came across. It didn't technically matter that my hair looked like crap in Scotland, because the wind made it necessary to use a headband. But still.... Not taking that chance for Nationals, let me tell ya!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Ask Us (Almost) Anything...


The Playfriends are at the RWA National Conference in Dallas. We've turned blog control over to some of our best blog friends and will be answering some of their burning questions...



Lois asks,

If you were the last lady on the face of the earth, and Sean Connery, Gerard Butler, Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth and Ewan McGregor were the last guys on the face of the earth, but you could only pick one to be with, which one would you pick?

Problem Child: Geez, I've left the Darling Geek in charge of the blog this week. He's going to see the answer! Oh well... I think everyone (including DG) knows how much I love a man in a kilt, so it would fall to Ewan to help me repopulate the planet. I'm a long-time fan of his, and do not hold his Star Wars appearance against him. And Ewan is way hot in a kilt.
However, Sting would be my first choice, but he wasn't on the list. :-(

Playground Monitor: Piece of cake. Pierce Brosnan. I've been in lust with him since I discovered reruns of Remington Steele back in the 90's. Then he became James Bond and I thought I'd died and gone to heaven. Then they fired him as 007 and I thought I could never watch another Bond movie. Of course, now I'm in lust with Daniel Craig, the new 007. Can we add him to the list of possibilities????? Sadly, if you're depending on me to repopulate the earth, you're out of luck. The oven is gone -- and what's left has an expired warranty. ;-)

Instigator: Well, I am a fan of Pierce but I'd have to say that Gerard cranks my tractor just a little more. There's just something about a man who can wear a mask and armor, practically cover everything good, and still be sexy as hell.

Smarty Pants: What? No Johnny Depp?? Sigh. What a beautiful place the planet could have been! The list is good. Well, I guess I'd settle (...snicker...) for Ewan McGregor, then. He'd have to sing songs from Moulin Rouge to me all the time. This of course is assuming that Kim is not on another remote continent with him already. If so, Colin Firth is a nice second. Never underestimate the power of a sexy accent.

Angel: I'm not in love with any of these choices... I guess Pierce Brosnan. I'll just pretend he's a bit younger than he actually is. I'd go along with SP and vote for Johnny Depp to be added to the list! Or better yet, Oded Fehr.

*****

Thanks for your question, Lois. Contact PC to claim your prize!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

I'm off to Dallas!!



I’ve made my list, and I’ve checked it twice. I’ve tried to cover every clothing contingency I can. I’ve polished my pitches. I have new business cards and promo for the Playground. My toes are polished; my dresses are pressed. I’ve dealt with a knee crisis that nearly derailed my entire conference experience—not to mention my wardrobe.


AC and DG are prepped for my absence. I’ve left some lists for them as well as dinners in the freezer. The two of them can play on the Wii as long as they’d like without any PC interference.

I’m sooo geeked about this trip. I must be; why else would I get up at 4:30 am to drive to the airport? (Is there a scientist somewhere working on teleportation?) Maybe it’s the time with friends. Maybe it’s the chance to make contacts and network. Maybe it’s the hope that the book I pitch this time will be the one.

Sometimes I feel like my trips to the National Conferences are a waste of time and money and an undue burden on my family. I mean, I haven’t sold anything so what’s the real use in networking? Okay, so I have an editor appointment, but couldn’t I accomplish the same thing (i.e., pitching my book) with a first class stamp? Here I am, spending all this money on hotel rooms, air fare, registration fees, food, and (not to mention) clothes for the third time, and I’m no closer to selling anything than I was before. DG has to rearrange his schedule and play Single Parent for a week, and poor AC has to go to day care all day every day. They’ll be eating frozen meals and macaroni and cheese for a week.

I’m so lucky that DG supports what I’m doing and never once questions the Visa bill. He’s has no problem with the time and money I spend chasing this dream (and since I’m currently unemployed, I’m not bringing in any income to balance the drain on the checkbook), but I have to wonder where the line is between “dream chasing” and “selfishness.” After all, there’s no guarantee I’ll ever sell anything, and all this “dream chasing” could really be nothing but a giant money pit. Where’s the cutoff point? Five years? Ten? Bankruptcy?

But these are all questions for another day. Today, I have fabulous dresses to wear to wonderful parties and a book that I love to pitch to a new editor (who will hopefully love it as well). Declarations from the Playfriends that I’m thissssssss close to selling will stave off the guilt for a little while longer. I’m going to take my six pairs of shoes to Dallas and drool all over Kira’s pink “First Sale” ribbon. I’ll get inspired and shamed all at the same time and come home ready to finish that book I’ve been tinkering with for ever now.

Maybe that one will sell…

Have a fabu week! DG will be posting the Ask Us (Almost) Anything questions this week—you may be a winner! (And you may be a winner if you comment…hint…
hint…) Be nice to DG, but don’t go spilling any Playground secrets, okay?

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Absolutely, Positively Necessary



So, we're all getting ready to go to Nationals around here. Some of us leave on Tuesday, the rest on Wednesday. We've been burning up the loops with questions, suggestions, and decisions on what to take, where and do. But there is another part to going to Nationals: All the HOME stuff that needs to be done before you leave.

You know what I'm talking about. Not laundry and packing, but those things you MUST do around the house and for your family before you can comfortably walk out that door and not worry. The list probably changes according to how many kids are at home, animals, location, and the length of time to be gone, but it is always there.

Here's a peak at My List:

1. Write bills. Make deposits.

My dearly beloved is horrible with money. So before I go anywhere I make out all the deposits, get that money in the bank, and get as many bills paid as I possibly can.

It doesn't help that I was gone to Scotland through a pay period and now everything seems all out of whack. So this must be done before I can leave, no questions asked.

2. Grocery shopping.

Now, don't get me wrong. My hubby is perfectly capable of running by the grocery store or a restaurant and picking up dinner. Or cooking for that matter. Since he runs a restaurant, I hope he's good at that. This is more to lessen my guilt than it is to feed him.

If I leave the house with frozen pizzas, lunchables, and chicken nuggets in the fridge, then I know that he doesn't have to come home after a 12 hour day and figure out what to feed everyone. Unless he really wants to. And if someone is here watching the kids, they have something handy to throw in the oven that the kids will eat.


3. Pack the kids' bags.

If my children are going to be staying with anyone else, I go ahead and pack their clothes as their laundry is folded. A. It's just convenient to do it at that time. B. Then I know that nothing is forgotten. They won't get to my sister's house and have no clean underwear or swimsuits (because hubby didn't remember she was going to take them swimming).

Yes, I'm a control freak. Which leads me to my last Must Do:

4. Clean the house.

But you aren't going to be there to know that it's dirty, you say. Yes, I realize that. And my family probably wouldn't care, or even notice, that things are piling up. Floors are dirty (one of my pet peeves). Or that dishes in the sink have been there long enough to start growing things (I had to throw away several plastic cups when I came home from Scotland.).

But I would know. I think part of this stems from the fact that other people might be here to watch or pick up the kids. Doesn't matter that they are family and that they've seen the house dirty before.

And I'm not sure, but I think this might stem in part from my upbringing. My mother was a fanatic about the house being cleaned. Still is. She cleaned before every visitor, before every trip, and at least once per week otherwise. Now, I could use to clean my house more often than I do, but I look back and realize that my mother was a bit overzealous by my admittedly low standards. I mean, she practically had 4 adults (well, 2 of us were teens) living there that all picked up after ourselves. But she was into the deep cleaning. Maybe more of that has rubbed off on me than I'd like to acknowledge. :) Of course, any other time I would certainly not want unexpected company. I am by no means a clean freak!

So there is my Must Do list that just kind of sticks in my head before any trip. What about you? Any compulsive actions that MUST be taken before you head out the door?

Angel



Check out the cool and nifty countdown calendar below! And don't forget to read all about us in the Ask Us (Almost Anything) posts later this week.

Let the Countdown Begin

Saturday, July 07, 2007

A winner and a SQUEEE

Congrats to cas2ajs, Tuesday's winner of a book by guest blogger Jane Graves. Please contact me at problemchild@writingplayground.com with your mailing address.

And a SQUEEE for Jane herself, as Hot Wheels and High Heels is #57 on Barnes and Noble's Top 100 List this week. Yay, Jane!

Friday, July 06, 2007

Off-Line


My blog today is more of a rant. I apologize in advance. It’s just....well, you know if you read this blog often enough that several of us are internet addicts. Addicts! I mean, my icon has a computer mouse in it for goodness sake! I check my email every 5 minutes the entire time I’m at work and several times throughout the evening at home. At the old house, I had cable internet. Very speedy - 8.0, I think. Not super-reliable – every time someone digs up the wire, the whole neighborhood goes down, but they’re usually pretty quick at fixing it.

The new house was close enough to town that I could now get DSL, which is a little cheaper and I could bundle it with my phone, cellular and satellite service to save money and get some cash back bonus. I closed on the house Wednesday, had an appointment to turn on the phone Thursday and an appointment to setup the DSL Friday. All lined up in the neat and orderly way I do things. Thursday of last week there is a card on the door that says there’s no phone lines available and it will be setup within 5 days. I had to cancel the DSL appointment, of course.

Tuesday was 5 days. Wednesday was a holiday. I call this morning for a status as I still have no phone. They tell me its going to take another 2 weeks. 2 WEEKS!! That’s just for the phone. Then I have to get on the schedule for the internet installation. No way. Can’t do it. I don’t care if they have to run the phone cable from the phone company building 20 miles to my house – this is unacceptable. It’s a new subdivision, they should be equipped to handle the new houses coming in. They, of course, are not very apologetic about it. What am I going to do about it, right? Can't very well call and complain with no phone.

So I call my old cable company and decide to reup my cable internet and add the new online phone service – something like Vonage, I guess. Same price as the other guys, but includes unlimited long distance and all the bells and whistles. They can get out to install the internet on the 12th, the phone on the 17th. Not great, but better. We have cell phones, so the internet is the most important (read above: internet addiction!).

First time in my life I’ve said this, I think, but thank goodness for work! At least I can check email and blog from there. Poor DB has no access at all, forcing us to make several trips a week to visit my mother and use her computer. His internet addiction is far worse than mine and he is getting quite crabby. Normally, I'd suggest he install some cheap dialup software until we could get the high speed, but again...no phone line.

I can’t live this way. It’s making me crazy. I can’t do web updates for us or our RWA chapter without going to someone’s house. I’m way behind on email. I’m cut off from the world from 4:30 PM – 7:30 AM every night. The other night I even lost my cell phone (it was on my floorboard, but I thought I left it at work) and sat on the couch all night, not sure what to do. No phone, no internet. ARGH!

I know some of you are laughing and thinking things like “Fifteen years ago, we didn’t have all that internet nonsense.” I KNOW! What did we do back then? I honestly don’t recall. I do know that I was forced to do icky things like use the phone book, call stores and ask for their hours, do research in the library and buy an Atlas. The horror of it all. I can't buy a tv, shop for shoes, research a book, find a phone number...my life has just become wrapped around it now.

So, what can’t you live without?
SP


(PS. I won't be responding to any comments today because I'm not at work, ie. no internet access until Monday when I come back. Oh the suffering!)