Saturday, August 30, 2008
Friday, August 29, 2008
Maybe I got caught up in the excitement of the upcoming presidential election, but at Nationals this year, I decided to throw my hat into the ring and run for the vacant Region 3 Director seat. At the time, I thought no one else was running. I thought it was the right thing to do - give back, support the organization, step up when no one else would, etc. Turns out there were several other people running. That changed things. Now I have to fight for it. My competitive streak emerged. Anyone who's been in a writing challenge with me knows how much I hate to lose.
So here I am, running for the board, and I'm not exactly sure how this process works. My only real experience with the campaigning world included making posters when a friend ran for senior class secretary. We hung flyers, handed out stickers and buttons, made speeches during lunch in the cafeteria... not much of that happens in RWA. Make that more like none of it happens in RWA. I was tempted to start campaigning in San Francisco and hand out "Vote for Andrea - Region 3" stickers, but had flashes of people talking behind my back about how I was being juvenile. I'm not sure how else to do it. How will people know to vote for me if they've never heard of me? I have no delusions of grandeur.
RWA has sent me questionnaires and bios to fill out and they will be posted online somewhere. Hopefully my well-thought out answers will win me some votes. I like to think I'm a solid candidate - intelligent, logical, sensible. I sent in my best picture, so maybe I'll get a few votes just for being cute. I have some good endorsements from various people, but if I tell anyone, it's bragging and not attractive in a candidate. I don't know my opponents, so mudslinging is probably a bad idea. :)
I guess this...I'll blog about it. Tell your friends and fellow RWA members to vote for me (I'm listed on the ballot as Andrea Laurence, not Smarty Pants or any of my other fickle pen names) for Region 3 Director! I'll shake your hand and kiss your baby if you really want me to (although it might be difficult). If you don't want to vote for me, that's ok, too. Just vote. It's important to make your voice heard, even if you disagree with me, which is unfortunate. :) Feel free to steal the logo to the left and put it on your blog or website.
As I say that, I have to admit I'm lazy about voting. I always hit the presidential years, but very few in between. That's sad, but true. I have a degree in political science, so you'd think I'd get more fired up about this stuff, but the enthusiasm got beat out of me long ago. I am a blue dot in a red state, so that not surprising. What about you? Do you vote regularly? Have you ever run for a position of some kind? How'd that go? Any ideas on how I can campaign (without really campaigning?)
Thursday, August 28, 2008
On the other hand, 'Zilla drives like my eighty year old grandma. And it drives me bonkers! I have to distract myself whenever we go somewhere or the fact that it takes us almost twice as long to arrive as it would if I were driving would make my brain explode.
So I thought it was rather hilarious when 'Zilla was stopped by a cop on the way home two days ago. Now, as I've mentioned before, we live out in the county. On a long road where everyone drives at least fifty - if not sixty - miles an hour. The speed limit is forty. However, if you drive forty you're going to piss off a lot of people because there's no place to pass for miles and traffic backs up rather quickly. 'Zilla drives that road at thirty-five - five miles below the speed limit at all times is his motto. Luckily for everyone else who lives around us, he tends to be on the road at odd hours of the day.
When he called me to tell me he'd been pulled over I laughed. I thought he was kidding. I asked him what in God's name the cop could have pulled him over for cause it sure as heck wasn't speeding. In fact, it was for driving too slow. And then I laughed harder.
Apparently, after all the niceties, the cop told him he'd been driving too slow and proceeded to ask if he'd been drinking or doing drugs. The cop kept him for ten minutes - I'm assuming to assess whether or not he was lying when he told the cop no but what do I know? He finally let 'Zilla go when he asked for the officer's supervisor's name.
I honestly don't mind the officer doing his job, but there was really no reason to keep him for ten minutes. I'm fairly certain it was obvious he wasn't driving impaired after about two...of course, then he started losing his temper and I don't think that helped 'Zilla's cause any. I, on the other hand, pass a cop on that same stretch of road at least once a week. And we all know I fly. I simply do the country wave (one index finger off the wheel in greeting) and never even tap the brakes. I know they aren't going to pull me over. They're flying just as fast as I am in the opposite direction. See, if 'Zilla had been following along with everyone else this never would have happened.
Any interesting run-ins with the law you'd like to share? Mine have all been tame and involve traffic violations. Oh, except for that hour I spent in the drunk tank. But that really doesn't count since it was for law club. I will say I learned one thing though - the food sucks.
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
Last week Instigator told us about her new toy. Little did I know I'd be getting a new one too. Well, it's a hand-me-down, but it's new to me. And along with any new toy comes a new way of doing things. So if you get a strange phone call or text message from me in the next week or so, just ignore it and chalk it up to my slightly out of whack learning curve.
The reason I got a new hand-me-down toy is because the DH got a brand new toy. This is the Dare, an iPhone clone. iPhones are only available from a certain wireless provider and since we have to use a different provider so that everyone can hear us now, the iPhone isn't a possibility for him. But the Dare is pretty impressive.
And here's my new-to-me phone -- the Samsung Alias. It has all sorts of features, most of which I'll never use. But I can call someone or take a picture of a friend's book on the shelf at Walmart and then send it to her. And because it has a dual-hinge design so that when opened in landscape mode it displays a QWERTY keyboard, I can text a little faster than with a standard numerical dialing pad. Look out! PM has entered the twenty-first century. Sort of. Right now I'm trying to transfer photos of BabyGrand from a mini SD card to the phone. If you get a picture of her by mistake, just admire how cute she is and then hit the "Delete" key.
I'd ask you what new toys you have, but Instigator already did that last week and it's doubtful any of you stumbled into toyland like I did.
So instead, I'll ask what you're reading now? Do you have a good recommendation for us?
I'm reading NOW YOU DIE by Roxanne St. Claire. If you came to our RWA chapter's luncheon in May, she was the guest speaker. NOW YOU DIE is the third book in a trilogy about three sisters adopted on the black market and one man's search to clear their birth mother of a murder charge.
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Ah, dorm life. Communal living with strangers. Sharing space with people who, in turn, annoy you, disgust you, bother you, and steal your food. Without fail, these people stay up too late or get up too early, listen to horrifying music (usually too loud), borrow your clothes without permission, and hog the bathroom. If you’re really lucky, they’ll have a love-of-their-life that spends a good portion of the time in your room, often meaning that you’re stuck in the rec room until the wee hours of the morning while they do the horizontal limbo—hopefully, not in your bed.
Dorms are no place for adults.
So, it is with utmost amusement (and shock and horror and much disbelief) that I learned that Counselor Shelley will be moving into a dorm soon.
Yes, you read that right. Not graduate student housing. Not an on-campus apartment like they used to have for married students. A dorm.
See, Counselor Shelley is going back to school to become Dr. Shelley. Unfortunately, her PhD program is over an hour away from her nice suburban home on the golf course, and between gas prices and the workload piled on doctoral students, it just made sense for her to have a place near campus. Now, practical miss that Shelley is, she figured why not take advantage of the fact the University has living quarters right on campus?
Ummm, because it’s a dorm. Students live there, for goodness sake.
Now I know many of you don’t know Shelley all that well, but let’s just say that Shelley makes me seem very low maintenance in comparison. Can you envision me in a dorm? Now multiply that by about a thousand, and you’ll understand why I burst out laughing at the news and didn’t stop until I needed DG’s asthma inhaler.
She’s tried very hard to convince me of the soundness of this plan, but if you have to go buy a memory foam mattress (because you know those matresses are crap and dog only knows how dirty), a decent desk chair (because the standard issue ones will irritate your bad back) and some lamps (because you need the extra light to read), then sorry, you’re too old to be in the dorm.
I have visions of Shelley storming down hallways at 10pm, reminding everyone that it’s Quiet Hours and therefore time to turn that music down. It’s bedtime, people!
Thank dog she has a private room or she’d be short-sheeted (or worse) every single night.
I admire Shelley’s decision to get her PhD. I’m in awe of her determination and scholarly aspirations. I’m so proud of her because I know how hard she’s worked and how hard she will be working.
I’m also taking bets on how long this dorm thing will last. I see a off-campus studio apartment in the near future.
Or I would if I could stop laughing long enough.
Stay tuned. I’m sure this is going to be one fun semester…
*** So, did you live in a dorm? Did you love it or hate it? Think you could handle living there now? (Heck, I've decided Youth Hostels are just as bad...)
Monday, August 25, 2008
Since my children were small, I’ve tried to give them household tasks to do that matched their ages and abilities. But I recently realized I’d fallen down on the job in that area, unknowingly falling into DIY syndrome.
You see, I’ve always been a firm believer that children and teenagers should be given responsibilities and chores growing up. I roll my eyes when I hear my teenage siblings (yep, you read that right) complain about having to walk the dogs or clean up their rooms. When I was growing up (now I sound really old), we lived on a farm. Guess who fed the cow, goats, horses, chickens, and various other animals TWICE per day? Guess who was required to spend a whole hour every summer day pulling weeds out of the garden? Not to mention helping can vegetables, mow the lawn, haul wood, take care of the house, on and on and on… My sister, Mom, and me. I WISH all I’d had to do was walk the dog and clean my room.
But there was a positive upside to this type of lifestyle. When I moved out on my own, I knew how to take care of myself. Fixing my own meals, doing laundry, cleaning up after myself, held no mysteries. I’d been doing it since I was 10. Heck, during college I cleaned other people’s houses to make grocery money. And I want the same for my children. To me, there is no excuse for sending your child out into the world not knowing how to do laundry. It’s part of life. A parent’s job is to prepare them for what they will face in life.
Well, I recently realized that I’d been slacking in this area. It all started with the dishwasher…
I hate unloading the dishwasher. Actually, I hate dishes in general. I’m solely responsible for them at my house. That’s one thing I honestly try not to ask my hubby to do, because he owns a restaurant. He does dishes at work. Not a bunch (he has help), but he has been known to help clean up the kitchen. I hate doing them. I’d started Drama Queen out teaching her to put away the silverware. She could actually do it pretty well from the time she was about 4, but with moving and everything, we got out of the habit. I’d fallen into the old, “It’s easier to do it myself than wait on someone else” trap.
Then I was over at Instigator’s one day and watched her girls putting their dishes into the dishwasher after they ate dinner. What? They were younger than my kids. Could I? Should I?
Yep, I did. Actually, I haven’t started making them load the dishwasher yet. We have one of those older models that, if you don’t rinse the dishes really well before putting them in, they don’t come out clean. But they could EMPTY the dishwasher…. Yay!!!
I started by teaching Little Man, who is now 4, to put away the utensils. It’s like a sorting game and he is so proud of himself when he’s done. Unfortunately for Drama Queen, now 8, she gets to put away the brunt of the dishes, sorting them onto the counter then putting them in their proper cabinets. We have to do that because the position of the dishwasher blocks some of the cabinet doors. Then I load the dishwasher with dirty dishes from the sink. Combined effort, and hopefully once everyone gets the hang of it, less work for moi.
Hmmm… I wonder what else they can do? What did you feel was important to teach your child before they moved out? What responsibilities have you passed on to your children at different ages? (In other words: Please convince me I'm not a slave driver.)
Update: Our own Maven Beverly Barton is guest blogging today at Fresh Fiction. Check it
Saturday, August 23, 2008
Friday, August 22, 2008
I like parties. I like the planning, the details, the decorating. I like it going off without a hitch. I like people to be really impressed by what I've put together. When I'm not in the mood to write, I plan parties. I've been planning a wedding for years. When it does happen, it should be the event of the century. Or maybe next century at this rate. Either way, its what I enjoy. If I wasn't a writer, I'd try to be a wedding coordinator or party planner. Maybe do wedding cakes or open a bakery.
A couple years back, when one of my books stalled, I decided to throw my mom a big party for her 50th birthday. It's at the beginning of October, so it's really starting to ramp up. It will be a 50's sock hop with all the trimmings: Fifites era costumes, a jukebox, hula hoops, crepe paper...if I could find a milkshake machine, I'd have it, too. The gym of a local church will be all done up, serving root beer floats and hamburgers to a hungry crowd.
Since it's a birthday party, there has to be a cake, too. The original plan was to make a birthday cake that looked like a record. Maybe a jukebox. Easy. No problem. I watch enough Food Network to be dangerous. My boss's wife used to teach the Wilton classes at Hobby Lobby, so she offered to help and turned me onto a website with ideas and recipes. Oh dear. That was a dangerous place. Now the cake is, uh, a bit grander. A three tier turquoise and pink wedding cake, when you get down to it. This one is pushing my skill level, so his wife and I are camping out at my house all day tomorrow to teach me how to decorate cakes. Crash course. If I can pull it off, I'll be a hero.
Here's a picture of the inspiration cake by Cakes by Allison. We're only doing the top 3 tiers since we don't have that large of a crowd. I have to admit I might cheat and have Publix make the cakes and I'll decorate them. Their cakes are so tasty, plus I can mix and match the flavors. We'll see. Baking those darn things when they're that size and making sure they're level and whatnot, can be a nightmare.
So, what's your favorite flavors of cake and icing? I'm still trying to decide what kind of cake this will be. If you could throw any kind of theme party, what would you like to have? We had friends who had a luau once and it was awesome. Next year for my 30th birthday, I'm thinking 80's flashback party. And yeah, I already have the cake picked out.
Thursday, August 21, 2008
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Do you know who this woman is?
Until earlier this month I didn't either.
Her name is Debbie and she is a single mom. When her son was eleven years old, his coach approached her and said it was time for him to start training at a higher level. She thought the coach was kidding. He wasn't. He recognized the boy's skill and work ethic, and he told Debbie if they trained him right, one day he'd do things no one had ever done before.
This woman is a sports mom. She's a member of a special sorority of women worldwide who have spent countless hours and dollars to support their children in their athletic endeavors. A sports mom is a chauffeur, dietitian, nurse, psychologist and any other role she has to play. She watches her child compete and lose, and she is there to console and offer encouragement. She will dry tears and treat injuries and assure them the world isn't over. She may also watch her child compete and win, and she is there to rejoice. But win or lose, the next day the routine continues with practice, practice and more practice.
Then one day the big race comes -- the chance to compete at the very top. And for the duration, nothing exists outside that competitive arena. Her focus is narrowed to one competitor -- her child. The race becomes the longest minutes of her life. She clenches her fists, yells at the top of her lungs, encourages and urges and watches as her child gives the very best his or her body has to offer. She's done all she can do; at this point she's helpless and can only watch.
But when her child crosses the finish line first, her heart stops for just a moment as she double-checks to make sure it's true before she begins to smile like she's never smiled before.
The woman in the photo is Debbie Phelps, and on August 9th, her son Michael won his first gold medal of the 2008 Olympic games. Last Saturday, he lived up to his coach's prediction and did something no one has ever done before. He's won more Olympic medals overall than any other athlete. And he's won more gold medals in a single Olympic games than any other athlete. He surpassed the record of seven golds set in 1972 at the Munich games by swimmer Mark Spitz.
I watched her in the stands and knew in my heart how Debbie Phelps felt. Any mom knows the feeling, whether it's the sound of the baseball cracking off the sweet spot on the bat and sailing over the left field fence, sticking the dismount off a balance beam, a three-point shot arcing into the net, dancing the perfect jazz dance routine, digging a hard-spiked volleyball, being the first across the finish line or winning that eighth gold medal. It's pride and joy and a little sense of wonder about where all that talent came from.
My boys ran track in high school, and #2 son attended college on a track scholarship. He was a state high school champion several times, and in college he held a number of conference titles. He doesn't compete at the Olympic level, but I still know how Debbie Phelps feels. Many times I stood on the sidelines of a cross country course or in the stands of a stadium and I yelled and clenched my fists and watched as my son dug deep down inside to pull out the very best he had to offer. And every time I watched him receive a gold medal, I smiled like I'd never smiled before. I also wondered where the talent came from because you'd have to put a gun to my head to get me to run a mile. The DH and I joke about it being some sort of weird genetic mutation.
When he was younger, before every race I'd tell him to "win me a medal." We went to watch him at one of his college conference championship meets. After he won the 1500 meter run, he came over to me and handed me his championship plaque. "It's not a medal," he said. "But I hope it will do." That plaque hangs on my office wall and is a constant reminder that anything you can conceive and believe, you can achieve.
These days he's a graduate student at the same university where he was a track star. He's majoring in PE and is a graduate assistant coach. His goal is to be a head coach some day and help others the way all his coaches helped him through the years. And I have absolutely no doubt he'll do precisely that. Sadly, though, track and field isn't a huge spectator sport in the US like it is in other countries. Many people equate watching a track meet to watching paint dry. But I can assure you that when your kid is on that track, it's the prettiest, most interesting paint in the world.
All over the world, other mothers are watching their children compete at every level of competition. Not all will be able to share in a victory. Some will be picking their children up from a last-place finish, dusting them off and encouraging them to try again. It's something we moms do very well because it's just part of the job.
Have you been watching the Olympic Games? If so, what's your favorite summer Olympics sport? And what's been your favorite Olympic moment?
P.S. Does anyone else find it ironic that the Encore Presentation at 2:00 AM is sponsored by Ambien, a prescription sleep medication?
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Writers are supposed to people watch, gleaning little nuggets of interest to add to our characters. People watching at the ER in the wee hours of the am will definitely provide nuggets of something, but I write for Modern Heat/Presents, not the Jerry Springer show. After four hours there, I don’t have a single thing I can use.
But it was interesting. Like the twenty-three people who accompanied two bleeding people into the ER. You read that right—twenty-three. I counted twice to be sure. Why they were all there, I don’t know. But they certainly filled the waiting area with, umm, color. Then the police showed up to take pictures of the bleeding couple. I wanted to fix my lipstick because I figured the crew of COPS would be coming through the door next. I didn’t want to be on TV looking less than my best, you know (or the best I could, all things considered).
Then there was the sign showing a picture of handcuffs with the warning: Restraints must be removed before defibrillator use. Umm, is this a real issue? What kind of people are being brought into this ER? I live in Alabama, not New York...
There was your average assortment of folks vomiting and coughing up a lung. I, germaphobe that I am, was digging through my purse for my anti-bacterial wipes, convinced I’d catch bubonic plague before I got out of there. Monk would have been proud of me and my sanitizing efforts.
I got to overhear some very interesting conversations—the kind that normally only happen on the Springer stage, only without the bitch-slapping and chair throwing. The security guards were keeping close watch, just in case.
So this was how I spent quality time with Counselor Shelley Sunday evening. Not quite the wild days of our youth. We sat there, doing crosswords and Sudoku until we got bored with that, then Counselor Shelley read me diagnoses out of the DSM-IV for a while. Wild times, I tell you.
So, what did I get out of my visit to the ER, other than sleep deprivation and a big bill? Well, nothing I can use for my next book, sadly. I mean, my books are supposed to have a touch of glamour to them, and there was no glamour to be found. No alpha heroes or spunky heroines (Shelley and myself included—we were too tired and too... well... slightly afraid to be considered heroines). No heroic doctors, either. Le sigh. What a waste.
I did get some nice pain killers and an excuse to lay around in the bed all day Monday. So maybe it wasn’t a total waste.
Gotta look on the bright side, you know. :-)
So, where do you people watch? Any good characters there?
Monday, August 18, 2008
As Problem Child mentioned last Tuesday, the mojo seems to be hopping here at the Playground. I know it was flowing freely at conference and has seemed to overflow since the Children returned home.
Though I didn’t attend conference, I had a lovely SQUEE moment of my own last week. I found out that one of my manuscripts, Return to Mill Town, finaled in the Maggies Contest, short contemporary category. It will go on to a final judge at Harlequin. *Fingers crossed!* This contest is one of the longest running RWA chapter contests (held by Georgia Romance Writers) and carries a bit of prestige for finaling, so that little tidbit will look good on future query letters.
Quite frankly, I needed this encouragement. I’ve been working really hard to get my writing “out there”, submitting to contests and editors with my Circle of 5 plan. I’m down to 4 at the moment, having gotten back a rejection week before last, but I’m submitting to a carefully chosen contest this week and have a novella going out to a publisher as well. Here’s hoping the Circle of 5 will continue to bear prosperous fruit. The Plan Is Working!!!!
Add to that my euphoria at being able to stay at home and write while the kids are in school, and I’m feeling pretty good about my writing right now. I wrote a record number of pages this week, and plan to savor the chance to do this while it lasts.
So, let’s talk accomplishments. What’s your current plan of action (for writing or any important project of the moment)? Or are you one of those "fly by the seat of your pants" people, who take each day as it comes?
Let’s have a round of teeter totters to celebrate today!
Saturday, August 16, 2008
Friday, August 15, 2008
Instead of something insightful, I thought I'd share some pictures from San Francisco. I'm using ones from the tourist days since so many of the conference pictures have already made the rounds. Conference is great, of course, but its always nice when its someplace cool so you can build some vacation into it as well. Instigator, PM and I managed to cram a couple days worth of siteseeing into our trip. Honorary Playfriends Lynn and Kathy went along with us for some of the trip too. We hit all the high spots - Fisherman's Wharf, Chinatown, the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, the Redwoods, and of course, wine country. Couldn't forget wine country.
First, my favorite picture. We landed on Alcatraz just around sunset. I froze my rear end off getting this shot and had to fight this guy who seemed to be all elbows (at least his elbows were in half my pictures). I think it was worth it. We weren't able to see the bridge from our hotel, so this was really my first good view of it. Later we got to drive across it, so that was cool, too.
Despite Alcatraz being ever so slightly creepy, its always hard to stay serious with my friends. This shot was taken in the cells of the psych ward. Notice all the clothing. We were freezing. Do you know how hard it is to find coats and gloves and such in Alabama in the summertime? You'd better have them already or you're in trouble. I've had this problem the last few summers - I've gone to San Francisco, Scotland and Alaska. All cold. All problems to shop for. I know...wah...you got to go cool places and be cold. It just seems to be a trend of mine, lately.
The next day, we took a spiffy tour that went to the Muir Woods (small redwood forest near SFO), to several wineries, a cheese factory, then a quick stop for pictures of the bridge on the way back. It was a very cool day. What I remember of it, at least. We ate breakfast at the hotel early, then didn't eat again until about 2. Unfortunately, we stopped at 2 wineries before lunch. Wine on an empty stomach just went straight to my head. Woo. The tour guide must've thought I was a lightweight. Or an idiot. Either way, we were the rowdy girls crammed into the back of the van.
Anyway, before the drinking, came the forest. It was very cool. Unfortunately we had to really book it to make it all the way through and back and we almost didn't get to buy our little redwood trees to bring home. I stood in line with everyone's stuff while Instigator went back to the van to make sure Mitch (our guide) didn't leave us.
Here's all of us at the 2nd winery of the day. This was toward the end of the tasting so I can assure you that several of us (excluding PM) were feeling GOOD. It was a beautiful day out.
If you went to conference, what was your favorite part of the trip? (Either conference related, or just fun stuff). If not, what has been your favorite trip and what did you like best? I need to start deciding what's next on my overburdened itinerary...
Thursday, August 14, 2008
My friends have all told me how wonderful the story is. And while I believe them and their opinions do matter to me...it's sorta like your mom telling you you're beautiful. They have to tell me it's good (besides, they had their chance to tell me it sucked when they critted it :-)). It's a little different when a total stranger takes time from their busy day to write and tell you how wonderful your story is.
All I can say is that it puts a huge smile on my face for the rest of the day. And makes all the hard work and late nights worth it.
You know, I've been a voracious reader since the third grade and I've never sent a fan letter to an author before. There are plenty of authors I admire. Plenty of authors I want to be when I grow up. But I've never bothered to tell them how much their stories move, inspire and transport me. Honestly, it never occurred to me that it would matter to them. Now that I realize it might I think I'm going to sit down and write several :-)
So, if you're a reader please know that your letters do matter (especially if they come on a day we've found a bad review in the vast blackness of cyberspace).
P.S. Kate's winner from yesterday is Crystal Lee. Please email Playground Monitor with your snail mail addy and she will pass it along to Kate. Congrats!
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Kate Hardy writes for both Modern Heat and Medical, and she's been super nice and helpful to this newbie! Y'all give Kate a big Playground welcome as she adresses a topic close to all our hearts...
What makes a hero sexy? The obvious is the sensual smile drawing your attention to a mouth just made to be kissed; or the teasing glint in his eyes as he fences verbally with you, so you know he has a different sort of duelling in mind.
But, for me, it’s his mind.
I have to confess that I love nerds. Clever, sexy men.
Starting with archaeologists. Think Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford is still gorgeous, even though he’s getting on a bit) or Brendan Fraser in his role as Rick O’Connell. That’s why Alex Richardson – the hero of Hotly Bedded, Conveniently Wedded, my September UK Modern Heat release – is an archaeologist.
Or what about scientists? No, not Bill Gates (sorry, he doesn’t do it for me). I’m thinking Fox Mulder. He’s nerdy (not to mention paranoid) – but, OMG, talk about gorgeous. I didn’t miss a single episode of the X Files. With my other hat on, I write Medical romances – so I love writing scientists. Leandro Herrera in The Spanish Doctor’s Love-Child (currently out in the UK; out in Australia and the US next month) is a gorgeous scientist. (Now, did I mention Antonio Banderas at all? No. I was good.) But I also have scientist Modern Heat heroes – don’t be fooled by Karim al-Hassan in Surrender to the Playboy Sheikh. He’s a playboy, he’s a sheikh… and he’s a scientist.
I also have a secret love for musicians. We’re not supposed to write musicians, but I sneak them in. Hence Giovanni (from my RNA Romance Prize winning novel, Breakfast at Giovanni’s – aka In Bed With Her Italian Boss in the US) plays classical guitar, Jack in Sold to the Highest Bidder plays piano, and Rhys in The Children’s Doctor’s Special Proposal (March 09 in the UK) plays the cello. (And for that… all I’ll say is Alan Rickman in Truly, Madly, Deeply. How could Nina possibly prefer Mark to Jamie?)
So that’s my ideal hero. A clever, sexy man who plays an instrument. What’s yours? I’m giving away a copy of One Night, One Baby and I’ll ask the Playground Monitor to select a winner from among those commenting.
Thanks very much for having me in the Playground today – and congrats again, Problem Child, on joining the Mod Hot girls!
Visit Kate’s website: http://www.katehardy.com/
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
And the good mojo seems to just beget more good mojo! Kira’s first book is out and getting great reviews. My editor gave me some pretty happy news at conference. Andrea is getting pitch requests in hotel elevators. Manuscripts are being requested right and left. People are winning contests, finaling in contests, selling stuff…the squeees are flying fast and furious and every dog for miles is hiding under the bed from the noise.
Oh, yeah, bay-bee.
We love it when the mojo is hot. Every day brings something to celebrate. And we’re all about the celebrating.
Monday, August 11, 2008
Let’s give a big welcome to writing team Stephanie and Jean!
PANTSTER MEETS PLOTTER
You did WHAT today?
(Written from Jean's viewpoint with Stephanie's iron fist.)
Writing with a partner—most people wouldn't do it; most people shouldn't do it. It could easily lead to hair pulling, lawsuits, and funeral food.
We were friends first—not just friends, but the finish each other's sentences, swap shoes on the sidewalk, lend me a pair of panties kind of friends. The writing together was bound to happen because we always had a story to tell.
My spices are in alphabetical order and I read every issue of REAL SIMPLE MAGAZINE as if it was an oracle newsletter. Stephanie had no reason to expect that I would turn out to be a pantster—if we had known what a pantster was, which we did not. Nor did we know about RWA, GMC, HEA, or any other not yet discovered string of letters. We only knew we had some loose scenes kicking around and some characters that would not let us go.
Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus, authors of THE NANNY DIARIES, plot together, write chapters separately, and sit side-by-side as they edit. It sounds all very neat and ordered.
That is not how we do business.
When I am building a character, I take him with me everywhere. There is always a track playing in my head wondering what he would do in whatever situation I'm in. When I choose bread in the grocery store, I decide which he would choose. When I watch a movie, I consider how he would view it. It isn't important to the story; it will never appear on paper, but I need to know. Then I write. It flows. It's satisfying. I have no idea what's next.
That's when I email it to her. She says, "That goes, this stays, rearrange this, and he wouldn't use that word. By the way, these two scenes need a transition scene." She's never wrong.
Early on, when we were still finding our process, she said to me, "Who's the bad guy?" She had that smug look that told me she knew the answer and I had a test to pass.
"There isn't one yet," I said.
"Yes there is. It's Mallor."
"NO!" Because, clearly, he was a good guy. I said as much.
"No, he isn't. He's bad. Tell me why." And much to my surprise, I was able to tell her. I haven't told her no since.
We're a little more ordered now. There's a plan and we know the bad guy going in. And mostly, I stick to the plan. Only occasionally do I send her pages that have nothing to do with what she was expecting and, when I do, I call and warn her. She does not like a surprise.
And when she gets that call, almost never does she say, "You did WHAT today? Dear, Lord." Most of the time, those unplanned journeys have worked out.
Thanks for asking us to come out and play.
Stephanie Jones and Jean Hovey write together as Alicia Pace. Stephanie lives in Jasper, AL, where she teaches fourth grade and wishes for a coffee shop. She is a native Alabamian who likes football, civil war history, and people who follow the rules. She is happy to provide a list of said rules to anyone who needs them. Jean is a former public librarian living in Decatur, AL, with her husband, two Maine Coon cats, and a recently rescued stray kitten. She likes to cook but has discovered the joy of Mrs. Paul's fish fillets since becoming a writer.
Find out more about this writing duo on their my space page: http://www.myspace.com/aliciapace
PS Our very own Instigator is visiting the Queens over on Soapbox Queens blog today! Check it out at www.soapboxqueens.com .
Join us when author Kate Hardy blogs with us on Wednesday, August 13th!
Friday, August 08, 2008
This year, I deliberately didn't pitch. Last year I did and was mightily disappointed by the way the agent I pitched to handled my proposal over the last year. I had plenty going on my own, thanks to the Circle of Five, so I was just going to relax and enjoy it.
My college roommate, Dr. Brilliant, lives just outside of SFO. You might remember her from these previous posts. Anyway, she took the train into town and we went to dinner at the Cheesecake Factory Thursday night. Afterward, I brought her up to our room to pick out a historical romance from the pile I'd collected. As we waited for the elevator with another lady, Dr. Brilliant asked me about my badge, which said "PRO" across the bottom. I told her it meant that I had finished a book, and well, been rejected. About six times. The woman waiting with us offered that it was a badge of honor and something to be proud of.
So we get on the elevator and the other woman asks me what I write. I tell her I write quirky paranormals. She asks if I'm pitching this year. I said no, by the time I got around to it, there wasn't much available. Then it happened. The thing that everyone says happens, but I've yet to hear or experience an actual instance of it.
She told me she was taking appointments Saturday morning at 9. If I could meet her down there at 8:45, she'd fit me in. At this point, I hadn't a clue who she was or who she worked for. She gave me her card. She was an agent. I was nearly stunned speechless. I gave her my card and told her that was fine. I wasn't really sure what to say or do. I walked Dr. Brilliant to her subway stop, then returned to the room, sort of bewildered and numb. Of course, I dashed off to meet the other Playfriends at the eHQ PJ party and share my news. We had a little squeee and immediately googled the agent. Everything checked out.
Saturday morning I showed up and we had a nice chat. She told the lady checking in appointments that she should expect a tall, thin woman with lovely long blonde hair and light eyes. She had me at "thin." Anyway, it all went by pretty quickly. I was completely unprepared, so it was all very casual. She asked for a partial. I'll be sending it shortly.
I don't know how this will all work out in the end. We'll see. Either way, I wanted to share my story so the next time you go to conference, you'll have that elevator pitch all prepared. You might, in fact, actually need it! If you went to conference this year (or in the past) what was your craziest or best moment? If you've never attended something like this, have you ever had something great drop into your lap when you least expected it?
The Circle of Five Rides Again!
1 full MS with an editor
1 partial soon to be with an agent
5 short stories and features with the Trues
The winner of an autographed copy of Whispers in the Dark is Ellen! Email Instigator with your information to collect your awesome prize! Thanks to everyone who came out and made Kira's launch party a success. If you didn't win, remember you can pick up your copy at Amazon or Books a Million.
Thursday, August 07, 2008
I'll be honest and say that the experience has exceeded even my wildest expectations. There's nothing like walking into my local Walmart to see my own book on the shelf (which is the picture to the left).
And I have to say that I couldn't have asked for a better release date - right smack dab in the middle of national conference. In fact, my book's official release date was the same day we presented our workshop.
As if that wasn't enough, I got to attend the literacy signing for the very first time. It was a bit of a surreal experience but what better way to lose my signing virginity than with 520 of the most talented writers? (I have to say a huge Thank You to Nalini Singh! She sat next to me and was so friendly and wonderful.) Whispers was also featured at the book fair and about Saturday morning Smarty Pants reminded me that it would probably be an excellent idea if I went and signed them all. Doh! I seriously should have thought of that sooner. All week I had trouble remembering that I was supposed to be promoting my book. I seriously need to practice that a bit. However, my kick ass first sale shoes got me some major attention which usually reminded me (how could I forget the reason for them in the first place?!?).
I'm so glad that everyone here on the playground has been on this amazing journey with me over the last year. It wouldn't have been the same experience without the excitement and support of the Playfriends and the wonderful friends I've met through this blog. So, in honor of y'all we're throwing a huge party. Indulge in the chocolate fountain, free-flowing drinks of every variety, calorie free cheese cake and cheese pizza (what can I say? I like pizza). Schedule an appointment with the masseuse and pull up a mani/pedi chair. Indulge and enjoy - I know I will!
Thanks everyone!! I couldn't have gotten here without you all.
P.S. I'm going to give away a free copy of Whispers to one commenter today so be sure to say hi!
Tuesday, August 05, 2008
Trolley cars, the Golden Gate Bridge, Chinatown, giant redwoods, Fisherman's Wharf, Alcatraz -- there was so much to see and do, and we still didn't get to do it all. And while Alabama was suffering from 100+ degree temperatures, I was bundled in multiple layers of t-shirts and polartec fleece and wearing a hat and gloves. Someone was right when they said the coldest winter he ever spent was a summer in San Francisco (this is often attributed to Mark Twain but Snopes says it ain't so).
I'm exhausted after a week of conference and touring. I'm sure if they hooked me to an EEG, my brain waves would be close to flat. I've had long days, walked STEEP hills, danced til midnight, braved strong winds coming off the bay, but by damn, I left my heart in San Francisco and want to visit again.
We missed all of y'all while we were gone and appreciate you keeping Angel company. Many thanks as well to our awesome team of guest bloggers; you're da bomb. Heck, my mother even sent me something to use for today if I was too tired to blog. I actually wrote this longhand in the Oakland airport so all I'd have to do was type it in. Anyway, we have a San Francisco treat for our guest bloggers, and it ain't Rice-a-Roni. :-)
If you've never been to San Francisco, I highly recommend it. It has a little something for everyone.
If you have been, what was your favorite part??
P.P.S. A couple of the Playfriends found stones in Chinatown with the symbols for "Write Books" carved into them. I was not one of the lucky ones, but I did find a website with Chinese characters and according to the site, this symbol means "writer."
Hello, my life.
Yes, I had a fabulous trip with the Darling Geek and the Amazing Child—saw great things, ate good food, had quality bonding time. AC even lost a tooth in San Francisco. (The Tooth Fairy brings extra money for ones lost on vacation—after all, cost of living in SF is much higher!)
But the conference, of course, is what you want to hear about. And let me say it was FABULOUS. I’m exhausted, my voice is gone, and I attended very few workshops, but it was the bestest RWA conference I’ve ever been to. I think the cause was this:
Yep, there’s my name tag with the lovely PAN notation across the bottom and the even lovelier pink First Sale ribbon beneath. I got to revisit that feeling I had back in May when I announced I’d sold and all the congratulatory emails came in. Strangers stopped me in the elevator to say congratulations, and that warm, glowy feeling came back. The occasional “squee” escaped.
That ribbon also means that conference is a totally different animal than it was before. My schedule filled up quickly with meetings, lunches, drinks and the like. And while it meant I didn’t go to many workshops (and there were some very interesting ones on the schedule), the only ones I got to be at from beginning to end were the one I moderated and the one where I was on the panel.
But it was a GREAT time! And since a picture is worth a thousand words, I'll save the ones I need for my book and just post some pictures.
I'm sure once everyone else gets home there will be more pictures to come. I know I need copies of the ones on other folks' cameras (like our workshop, our breakfast with Barbara Vey, and so many more.)
And I'd like to thank everyone for keeping Angel company so wonderfully last week. All the comments were great! I think she still missed us though!
Monday, August 04, 2008
My circle of 5 is very healthy at the moment.** Unlike Smarty Pants, I’m a slow writer and have a difficult time getting many different things out simultaneously. I’m not looking for an agent, so that also lowers the number of potential submissions.
But this week I hit six! I’m very happy about that, and encouraged by my progress. I’ve come a long way from having nothing out for months at a time.
Even though I haven’t been nearly as consistent as I would like (I still have a tendency to let other stuff come first in my day), I’ve made very encouraging progress. I’ve learned to be careful, because I’ll tell myself I’ll write just as soon as I feel like it or get XYZ over with, and lo and behold I look up weeks later and don’t have a d*mn thing to show for it. So I’m trying to be much more conscious of what I’m doing, when.
Reaching my Circle of 5 goal this week shows me I’m making progress in the one area that has disappointed me a great deal in the past few years—the lack of quantity in my writing and submissions.
I’d like to pretend it is simply a lack of time, what with a family and business commitments too, but it’s really not JUST that. At various times, it might be related to any of the below:
1. When you aren’t being paid, putting writing high on your priority list becomes really hard. Especially with a family and other work responsibilities screaming out their own urgent cry for attention. Of course, you have to write before you can get paid, so that’s a catch 22…
2. I have a very emotional personality, thus rejections or bad contest scores tend to hit me hard for a few days, at least. Any momentum I might have at that point can be completely lost. I’m getting better at this (with much Playfriend help), but the disappointment still slows me down.
3. I tend to write slowly. This too is changing. Just recently I was able to switch from writing my first draft out long-hand (yep, you read that right) to typing it into my alphasmart. This has speeded up my process quite a bit, but that first draft is still slow in coming. I try not to compare myself with other people whose processes are much faster than mine, but that is hard not to do.
4. Procrastination. Need I say more?
5. Lots of unpublished writers, not faced with a concrete deadline, often let their muses rule them. We have a tendency to be hard on muses here on the Playground, but I’m still more likely to put other things off for my writing projects if that exciting inspiration is speaking to me.
6. Fear of failure. There’s a vicious cycle that comes with fearing failure. If you write, you have to revise. If you revise, it really needs to be sent out. If you send it out, there is a high risk of rejection. Did I mention I don’t handle rejection well… Sometimes a little voice whispers it might be easier never to submit at all. But again, I’ve made progress through the years. When I first started, that voice was yelling instead of whispering. :)
So there you have it. The honest struggles I go through to reach my Circle of 5 at any given time. None of them are pretty. Some probably don’t make any sense to anyone but me. But each one of the items on this list makes me more proud to have reached my goal this week.
So what goal have you reached recently that meant a great deal to you? What struggles did you face to achieve it? If you are a writer, what are the biggest obstacles to your writing time and how do you cope with them?
** For those of you who don’t know what this is, you can read Smarty Pants’s blogs about it by clicking on the Circle of 5 link at the bottom of this post.
Launch party for Instigator's first book is this Thursday! We throw a mean party here at the Playground, so don't miss it.
Next Monday, we'll be visited by two awesome ladies from our local chapter who are going to talk to us about writing as a team. Join us in welcoming Jean Hovey and Stephanie Jones on August 11th.
Saturday, August 02, 2008
Don't forget to check out Instigator's book! It hit the shelves yesterday (officially!), though it has been sold out around north Alabama. It can still be purchased on eHarlequin at this link:
A few things of interest before we get down to business:
As you can see, we're all reading it right now. :) We'll be having a special launch party next Thursday, August 7th, here on the blog!
firstname.lastname@example.org with your snail mail address so we can send it out to you. All prizes must be claimed within 7 days or they will be reawarded.
Also, if you'd like to see some of the things going on at RWA National Conference, check out our good friend Barbara Vey's blog at this link:
My Writers Attic
I really appreciate you ladies keeping me company!!!
I'm sure the Playfriends will be full of news from Nationals and maybe I can con them into posting a picture or two...
Friday, August 01, 2008
Don’t forget, one lucky commenter will win a book and surprise goody from the Playfriends. Check in tomorrow to see if you won!
Sue, take it away!!!
My name is Sue Jochens (no names have been changed to protect the guilty) and I am a 57 year old (for the next two months, anyway) woman living on the outskirts of Shawnee, in east, central Kansas. I am married with a son. I am also mother to 32,789 dust bunnies, all of whom have been with me long enough to have names. When not being a frustrated wannabe writer and photographer, I am an oxymoron, aka accountant for USDA. I’ve been lying….uhm….writing and telling stories, ever since I was old enough to grasp the green Crayonex crayon in my chubby little fist and make a scrawl. I wrote an account of my 2004 girlfriend getaway, and won $250 worth of books in a contest from Elaine Viets. Check it out at http://www.elaineviets.com/pages/log.asp (Scroll down to the August 17, 2007 entry.)
My hobbies are taking photos, reading, deck sitting, listening to music, and writing funny things to amuse my friends. If you want to be my friend, this is important to remember: don’t touch my cheeseburger, chocolate, or Absolut Peppar unless invited (but think twice even then.)
This is me….and I hate it. I look like a dumplin’ that’s been overpowered by the chicken:
FAMILY VACATION: Several days (or more) trapped in a car, plane, or small hotel room, with some of the people who caused you to need to get away in the first place.
GIRLFRIEND GETAWAY: Several days (or more) trapped in a car, plane, or small hotel room with people who aren’t obligated to like you, but do, no matter how bitchy you can be. In fact, when you do get on a major bitch, it’s the girlfriends who urge you to bitch away. I’d like to see the husband or child that would willingly offer that little service.
Hi. My name is Sue and I take at least one girlfriend getaway a year. Being a late bloomer, I didn’t take my first one until 2002. It was so much fun, that this past year I took two, and if it wasn’t for work interfering, come October, it would be three. I’m a greedy little sucker. Just got back from one, and it was so much fun, I actually liked the family for a few days afterwards.
Things…occurrences….happenings, which would completely send a family vacation down the toilet have been the makings of some of our best times ever. Take 2004. Crossville, Tennessee, and an inn that hadn’t been fixed up since Sherman marched to the sea. Chiggers, ticks, a small lake with so much scum on it you could walk across and stay dry, and a lawn with so many holes we spilled more liquor than we drank, didn’t stop us. We had fun with a capital F.
The next year we took a couple of cabins in Branson, Missouri and hardly left the deck of the biggest cabin. Ten women together in tight quarters for 4 days, and blood was not shed. We cooked, laughed until our faces hurt for a week, watched poker on TV, imbibed a few adult drinks, played Trivial Pursuit, and went to an outdoor deli with a fabulous view and an accordion player who took requests. That was a complete hoot.
The view from our cabin…who wouldn’t relax?:
We’ve been lost on the University of Georgia campus trying to find the theater where King Lear was playing. We’ve had a blowout fixed by the courtliest little fellow who ever lived under a troll bridge. (I defy you to have a rollicking good time being lost on a family vacation and having a tire blow on top of it.) While out of town with the girls, I’ve even had my credit card company call me about a large purchase made at a liquor store in Dalton, Georgia (one of my proudest moments as an independent woman.)
This year we chose a tiny town in Tennessee for our destination, because it was having a production of “Midsummer Night’s Dream” featuring a few people we know.
Several of us drove to Bell Buckle, unloaded, and headed to the Nashville airport to pick up those flying in. Less than ten minutes on the highway, traffic stopped. I don’t mean got slower – I mean turn off your engine, open the windows, get out of the car and wander around stop. For two hours. Had I been with the family, not only would the highway patrol have been investigating a hit and run, they’d be investigating a murder, or at least a serious maiming. Fortunately I was with girlfriends. We called back and forth between cars and those waiting at the airport. We sang Aretha songs. We watched a huge, beefy trucker climb down out of his big rig and walk his itty bitty Chihuahua. Several hours later, when we finally got there, were those waiting even a wee bit cranky? Nope. They too were with girlfriends and had been having a blast.
Two days later, the good times kept rolling during a torrential storm that trapped us in a large tent where we were supposed to be watching a play. It was a Noah’s Ark type rain that flooded the tent to ankle deep, and wind hefty enough to fell a tree on the road to the highway. They eventually called off the show, so we took our wet selves back to the inn, played guitar hero, ate cheese dip, drank margaritas, and recreated the hysterical Pyramus/Thisbe death scene that we had seen the night before during good weather.
I defy you to endure those sorts of conditions and have fun with the family. Can’t be done. Someone’s gonna die and I can bet it won’t be me or you. Girlfriends rock!
Trying to figure out what essentials to take on a girlfriend trip:
Got a girls-have-more-fun getaway story of your own to tell us? Spill it!