Tuesday, September 30, 2008

No, the other you...

I think we’ve talked here before about Googling yourself. And, I must admit, I do Google myself often, mainly because I’m waiting for the day I knock the interior designer off the number one spot on Google searches for Kimberly Lang. (I also have Google alerts for my name and my titles so I can find out when I’m being talked about. Not that I’m paranoid or anything…)

But when I do Google myself, I scan the results and those that I know for a fact aren’t me, I just skip over. Maybe I should pay a bit more attention.

Let me state categorically that I do not write poetry. Well, not since high school and all of that teenage girl angsty poetry is safely under my bed—not on the internet. (Thanks for the heads-up from an Honorary Playfriend.)

I am, obviously, not an Interior Designer from Berkeley, nor a real estate agent from Florida. I did not give a $2500 political contribution through the Blue Bell Creamery in New Mexico. I have not had bariatric surgery, nor was AC born prematurely. I’m not a lesbian mom breastfeeding activist. I’m not a lawyer, a high school teacher or a registered nurse. (Although I am listed on the Rate My Professor database, where I got high scores for everything except the easiness of my classes. I even got a chili pepper rating for being “Hot.” Go figure.)

There’s also a Kimberly Lang who plays volleyball at the Olympic level. That’s very obviously not me. :-)

Of course, if you use the British spelling “Kimberley,” you get a whole slew of new possible careers—including jewelry designer. Seems we Kimberly Langs are a creative bunch.

It’s kind of fun to see all the possibilities out there—even if I do have to come on to my blog and deny poetry…

So, go Google yourself. Look through the results and find the one most obviously not you-- the one that makes you laugh out loud or cringe at the thought someone might think it was you! Report back in the comment tail. Best/most horrifying ones get books!


Monday, September 29, 2008


We’re going to cheat this week and have MoanDay a little early. Yes, we’re always eager for the inspiration, but I’m actually planning ahead because my family and I are going on vacation next week.

Today I want to talk about the allure of the tattoo. Years ago, I could take ‘em or leave ‘em, but I’m finding myself more and more fascinated by them. Now, I have discriminating tattoo tastes. The man must be appropriately hot and the tattoo sexy and relevant. Quite frankly, I’m not really into the religious ones or elaborate graphics. Then again, sometimes that depends. Here are some subtle, and not so subtle, examples:




That last one… Yowza!!!

So, are you a fan of tattoos or do you like your guy smooth and unmarked? Writers, what usually prompts you to give your hero a tattoo? How do you decide what it is?


Coming Soon:
This week we have a double dose of special guests. On Wednesday, October 1st, we kick off the month with inspirational author Debbie Giusti. Then on Friday, October 3rd, romance reader extraordinaire Kati Dancy joins us. We've got a big week, so stick around!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Love This Site Award

We've been nominated for a "Love This Site" award at DivineCaroline.com. The Playground blog will be celebrating its third birthday soon, and while just being nominated is an honor, winning would be a great birthday present.

We've worked hard to live up to our motto: Where aspiring writers come to learn and play. We hope you've enjoyed learning and playing with us as well.

Voting ends on November 30. You must register with the site to vote, but there's a very clearly marked area where you can opt out of any emails. Please feel free to tell your friends and/or post the link on your blog as well.

We love our site and hope you do too. To vote, just click on the logo above.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Barbara Vey Contest


Our good friend Barbara Vey, blogger for Publisher’s Weekly, will be running a contest on her blog this weekend where you have to match pictures of animals with their publishing owners. Isn’t this little guy cute? So check out Barbara’s Beyond Her Book and see if you can spot some of the Playground crew there.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Da Funk

Apparently, I've been in a bad mood the last few weeks. (I apologize if I've been grouchy, grumpy, mean or pointedly sarcastic to you.) I hadn't realized it. DB informed me of such last weekend. Kept prodding me to talk and asked me what was wrong a million times. I don't know. I thought I was fine. Everything was fine. FINE! Stop asking! Hmm... maybe not.

Unfortunately, once he pointed it out and I thought about it, the more I realized he was right. I am in a funk. Now that I'm conscious of it, I'm dwelling on the funk. Wallowing in the funk. It's just making it worse. I get teary if I just *THINK* of the movie Office Space, which is supposed to be funny, but I'd always found to be a tragic parody of my life. My mother's plan to run away to Mexico starts to look even better as I sink deeper into the Swamps of Sadness.

Last night, I spent about four hours in the car driving to his parent's place and we talked. I think there is no real root to my problem. Every once in a while, I just get like this. I'm not clinically depressed. There isn't anything specific bothering me, aside from his inability to get his dishes into the dishwasher. I have a lot going on, which might stress me out from time to time, but overall, my life is pretty darn good. Not perfect, but I can't complain too much. (All this, of course, pending on the country's financial crisis and my rapidly dwindling 401k account. That combined with the election, the exceedingly hairy sitch with Russia... I'm considering moving to a commune.)

And yet, I feel off. Like my existance doesn't have a point. A purpose. I'm very goal oriented. From childhood, I was always fighting to the next achievement. After grad school, I think I started chasing publication so I would have a new goal to work toward. That's going fine, but in the rest of my life it seems lately like I'm just going through the motions day by day. What am I offering the world? What is the point of me being on this planet? I get up, go to work, come home, eat dinner, watch some tv, go to bed. Next day, do it again. Wishing away the week to get to the weekend. Seems pointless. Not in a "what's-the-point-of-going-on-living?" sort of way, but just... is there something I'm supposed to be doing with my life that I don't know about? I'm watching years slip by with no discernable improvements or changes.

DB made a point of reminding me that the only people who sit around pondering the meaning of life are those who aren't struggling just to survive. Makes me feel guilty for moping. I guess I tend to worry and wallow about things other people don't think about or don't have the time or energy to think about.

A rambling, wandering blog, I apologize. So, I guess now I'm trying to shake off the funk before I drown like Atreyou's horse. (A side note to the designers of the universe - a book contract would be a really great way to do it.) Do you ever just get in a funk for no real reason? What do you do to shake it off? Am I the only one sitting around pondering what I'm supposed to be doing with my life?


P.S. In other, less depressing news, PC's interview is up over at the iheartpresents blog. Pop over and say hi!

P.S.S. We've been nominated for a Love Award on DivineCaroline.com. We need your votes! :-) Please VOTE!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

In the Cave

I'm currently my writing cave. I have some pretty extensive revisions and only a few weeks to do them (because the family and I are going to the mountains for fall break and I'd really like to not have to worry about this while I'm gone) so this post is going to be short and sweet.
I'm working on Afterburn which will be a May 2009 release. It's the story of an accidental marriage between an Air Force Thunderbirds pilot and the Public Affairs Officer for the Squadron...three days before he leaves for war.

I thought I'd share a couple pictures of my vision of Chase and Rina.

Can't you just picture him peeling out of a flight suit? :-)

Hopefully, life will return to what passes for my crazy normal soon. In the meantime, I have a couple questions I'd really love to get your opinion on. For the writers out there, do you use pictures of your characters to help you visualize them? For the readers, does it ever bother you if the cover models don't match your vision of the characters once you start reading? Or do you even pay attention to the cover once you've opened the book?

P.S. We've been nominated for a Love Award on DivineCaroline.com. We need your votes! :-) Please go to

to vote.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Just the facts, ma'am. Just the facts.

Is it my imagination or has the number of urban legend emails increased lately? I’ve pretty much eliminated the emails touting products to enhance a body part I don’t have and am working on getting the Nigerians to stop telling me they have a million dollars for me if I’ll just send them some money first.

We don’t discuss politics or religion on this blog, and I won’t break the pattern. But suffice to say most of the annoying emails I’ve been receiving involve one or the other or both.

Why do people pass these on? What gives them such credibility that intelligent folks feel the urge to click the “Forward” button and send it further into cyberspace?

I did a little research and learned that these type of emails generally play on general fears such as harm to the family or community. Many times they also challenge religious beliefs or attempt to portray someone or something in an unpatriotic light. The recipient reacts emotionally, and while most folks are too smart to fall for a typical April Fool’s joke, they’ll forward an urban legend because they want to be helpful. I mean, wouldn’t you want to keep your friends’ kids and dogs safe from a deadly Swiffer? * Of course, every once in a while one of these emails is true and heaven forbid we fail to inform everyone we know that boxes of aluminum foil usually have lock tabs on the end to hold the roll in place. **

When the email comes from a friend or family member, most people take it at face value. That extends some degree of credibility when they in turn forward it to more family and friends. And thus the viral quality of the legend begins.

Several tip-offs that the email from Aunt Tilly might be an urban legend are that the originator is usually a friend of a friend, the message tugs at your emotions (fear, empathy, religion, politics, family or country) and you are urged to pass the message on to as many people as possible as quickly as possible.

If the email you received this morning contains any of the clues above, you may want to hop over to my favorite urban legend buster website and check it out. Snopes.com has been around since 1995 and is generally considered to be the best source for the truth. A quick search from their home page will quickly let you know that Madalyn Murray O’Hair not only hasn’t been granted a hearing by the FCC to stop religious programming, but that she’s probably been dead since she disappeared in 1995 though her body wasn't found until 2001. This particular urban legend has been around on the Internet since at least 1996 and as early as 1975 the FCC was receiving letters from concerned citizens. Sadly it seems to resurface every few years thanks to folks who don't check their facts.

You can also find out that the email with the online petition you’re to forward to Washington once it gets 1000 signatures is a waste of time. Petitions must contain real signatures to be valid. Proctor & Gamble’s logo is not satanic, In God We Trust does appear on the new dollar coins and Nike won’t send you a free pair of shoes in exchange for your old ones. California law does not require citizens to obtain a hunting license in order to set mouse traps in their homes, "Puff the Magic Dragon" isn't a song about marijuana and the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser, a favorite amongst the Playfriends, does not contain formaldehyde. And last but certainly not least, Microsoft won't send you a check for forwarding an email.

So the next time you receive an email with questionable content and a request to forward it, please check Snopes and act responsibly.

What’s YOUR email pet peeve?

P.S. Even the title of my blog is an urban legend. Jack Webb, who played Sgt. Joe Friday on the popular television series Dragnet never said “Just the facts, ma’am” when questioning female witnesses. What he usually said was “All we want are the facts, ma’am.” You can read the whole story at – where else? – Snopes!

* Swiffer myth debunked

** A nifty tip about aluminum foil

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Power of Lunch

I’ll admit to having a couple of tiny superstitions. There are the basic ones—knocking wood, tossing salt, etc—but those aren’t really superstitions any more. It’s more like folklore fun. Everybody does it.

Artists of all shapes, though, seem to be a superstitious bunch. Just ask around. Professional athletes are, too. I have a long, drawn-out theory of superstitions among performance types that I won’t bore you with here, but when you have no other reason to understand why on some nights you hit the triple pirouette with no problem and on others you fall and break a foot, superstition seems as good a reason as any. It’s either that or worry about butterflies in the Amazon flapping their wings and bringing on chaos…

I have a couple left over from my dancing days. Big superstition number one: Red Carnations. For the love of dog, don’t give me red carnations. They’re Bad Luck. They give me the willies just looking at them. The Artistic Director of my dance company wouldn’t let the things past the stage door. I also will not wish you “Good Luck” if you’re going to do something physical or performance-related. Everyone knows that, right? But no one in their right mind would tell a dancer to “Break a Leg.” Instead, I will wish you much Merde. (Yes, your high-school French is correct. That means what you think it means.)

Until recently, I didn’t have any writing related superstitions. No lucky writin’ hat. No turn around three times before I sit at the desk. Nothing.

But I am now a believer in Lunch. But not just any lunch. It is Lunch with Lynn.

The first time was actually dinner. Lynn and I went out to eat and the next day she got the call that she’d won the Instant Seduction contest. A few days later, we go to Lunch and she comes home to a Golden Heat finalist call. We did Lunch to celebrate me finishing the revisions on my book, and the next day I got the email that said the editor loved it and could I send her my phone number. (Yes, I forgot to give the editor who had my book my phone number. Sigh.) Twenty-four hours later, I got The Call.

We figured we might be on to something.

We now go to Lunch every time one of us sends something off to our editors. Without fail, within a day or two, we hear back some sort of good news. Revisions, acceptance, titles, something good and writing related. (The only time Lunch has failed us is with the Golden Heart. We did Lunch on Saturday before the awards ceremony, but by then it was too late. Pity we didn’t know when the judges were actually reading her entry. Maybe we should have Lunched continuously during the judging process.)

Are we each other’s lucky charm? Does our Lunch somehow affect the Universe? Don’t know. All I do know is that Lunch is not to be skipped nor taken lightly. It has earned its capital letter.

Of course, it helps that Lunch is fun and a great way to break up the monotony of my days in front of the computer. Lunch with a friend is always good. The fact that it seems to have some kind of cosmic publishing power doesn’t hurt.

I’ve heard of Power Lunches before, but I’m a believer in the Power of Lunch.

(Sorry, Lynn, but you are never allowed to move away. I hope you like Alabama. Stay hungry, honey. My career needs you.)

Do you have a superstition or lucky charm?


Monday, September 22, 2008

Growing Up

Drama Queen, who is now 8, finally developed an interest in having her ears pierced. The prospect of pain certainly did not thrill her, and kept her from following through on any errant thought about it before. Like me, she has a very low tolerance for pain. (PS. We don’t call her Drama Queen for nothing)

Anyway, when she brought this up to her Daddy and I, the good ol’ hubby promptly chimed in with, “Yeah, maybe your Mommy can get hers done at the same time. You’d like another earring in your ear, wouldn’t you?”

Great. After that, there was no way I could tell DQ that I didn’t exactly relish the idea of having a needle stuck through my ear again. When I had my ears pierced as a child, I had some problems with one of them and had to have it redone. And it looked like now I’d be getting a double pierce.

We chose a Claire’s Boutique at the nearby mall. My mother-in-law was nice enough to join us to take pictures and decided to put a third hole in her right ear to complete this bonding experience.


I got elected to go first (lucky me!). It wasn’t so bad. More burning and pressure than actual pain. My mil went next. Then it was time for Drama Queen to climb up in the chair. They did both her ears at once, because we were honestly afraid she would get one done and refuse to go through with the other one.

Long story short (too late!), she barely even cried. Tears welled and spilled over a bit and she started talking really fast, but no dramatic swoon, no hollering, no crying from here to eternity. I was quite surprised. And proud. She hasn’t fussed about them hurting or bothering her while she sleeps, which has also surprised me. Quite frankly, mine are driving me crazy.


So, do you have your ears pierced? Double? Any extras we should know about? Secret hankering for a nose ring or tattoo? Come on, spill it… but keep it G-rated, okay? :)


Friday, September 19, 2008

Run Away

In each generation of my family, one of us inherits the itchy feet gene. Not athlete's foot, I'm talking the urge to move. When I was a kid my mother drug me all over creation, just like her own mother did with her and her brothers. My grandmother got it from my great-grandpa. His urge was so strong, he ran away from home at 11, joined the circus, then paid a wino to pose as his father so he could join the army at 13 (he was tall). He fought in WWI, WWII and Korea. He was stationed in Germany, Japan, San Francisco, and Georgia. I wonder if we got it from his mother's side of the family. She was Cherokee Indian.

Roaming is just in our blood and only one of us gets it - the firstborn. Once in control of their own destiny, my aunts and uncles have lived in the same towns doing the same stuff almost their whole lives. As much as I hate the physical process of moving (if hell is custom created, my punishment would be moving every day for eternity) I like to go. I'm not sure if its the urge to run from something or to something. There's only one certainty - the new place, no matter how exciting it sounds, will lose its charm before long and the urge to move will return. Because its not the town or the people. It's us.

We get bored. Bored with where we are and what we're doing. Tired of the people we see from day to day. Disinterested in our lovers and our homes. It's really sad. The American Dream of the family with the 2.3 children, the home in the suburbs and the white picket fence... that's the kind of thing that sends shivers down our spines. We think we should want it, like everyone does, but when we get it, its like a hot, wet blanket thrown over our heads on a humid summer day. We can't breathe. We feel smothered.

The fact that I've stayed in Alabama for 7 years is a triumph. I've only lived in my apartment, my first house, and then my second house in all this time. My mom is only in her second place, so she's lived in her house for over 5 years. I think that's a record for her. Home buying was an exhilarating and frightening experience. For once in my life I actually had something to keep me where I was. A house, a car, more crap than any person can schlep with them. It makes good financial sense. And yet, I hate it. I cannot just up and leave without a huge financial impact. I have a good thing going here. There is absolutely no reason for me to leave. So I do my best to ignore the urges. I stay busy and don't leave myself time to think about it. I travel a lot, so that helps, although I can't help but think about moving to every place I visit.

My mom isn't doing as well. I wouldn't be surprised if I got a call from her one day that said she took Little Sister and moved to Iowa while Stepdad was at work. Moving in the night without telling anyone is our specialty. Anyway, as part of the birthday thing, I told my mother I would take her on vacation to anywhere she wants to go. We settled on Italy. I'm not sure when we'll go, maybe spring 2010. Unfortunately, now mom has Italy on the brain. I was able to squelch her moving to Florida earlier this year, but now she's talking Italy.* ITALY! She's never even been there. She wants some little cottage in the rural countryside where she can get away from all the modern crap we're bombarded with. With all the junk on the news about the election and financial crises, gas prices... I can't say I blame her. I'm not much for goats and churning my own butter, but I could certainly use a simpler lifestyle.

Maybe just a year in Italy. :)

Do you like a change of scene every now and then? Or are you one of those people who are firmly rooted in their home? Is moving to a far away place a dream or a nightmare? What would you like to run away from?


*Update - today she's changed her mind. Now she wants to move to Mazatlan, Mexico. Sigh...

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Tied to Technology

So, I know that I'm a little tied to my technology. The thought of going without email for even five minutes sends me into a cold sweat. So yesterday, I about had a panic attack. My work email - the address I use for just about everything - went down for about 3 hours. And when I say down I mean our provider couldn't even find a record of us.

An hour and a half later and after being hung up on twice they eventually found us and corrected the problem (we weren't the only ones with the problem). But for several hours I was lost. And what's worse, the emails that people sent me during that time are lost. Unrecoverable. I'll never see them again.

It's amazing how quickly we become dependent on technology. Cable TV, telephone service, cell phone service. It used to be electricity for cooking and heat and water for the necessities of survival were most important...now I don't think I could function without my cell phone. Heck, if the power and water were to go out I'd have no way of notifying our company without my cell phone.

So I was whining, complaining, and then saw a news story about the aftermath of Ike. I can't imagine being in Texas right now, suffering through that. In comparison, my lack of email was a niggling annoyance. Dealing with the loss of life and property, the lack of routine supplies and staples, now that is a real problem. Our thoughts and prayers are with those affected by the storm.

What technology are you dependent on?


P.S. Virginia is the winner from yesterday. Please contact the Playground Monitor to claim your prize.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Remember Me?

EDIT: Forgot to mention that #1 son and his beautiful wife are celebrating their 3rd wedding anniversary today. Happy anniversary and I love you both!

And now, back to your regularly scheduled programming...

I've been pre-empted the last two weeks by a couple of wonderful guest bloggers. It's been exciting to get to know PC's fellow Modern Heat authors, and I've used them as an excuse to get lazy -- not only with writing a blog, but with writing anything. I've barely even made a grocery list the past few weeks. I checked the reading list I keep and realized I only read 3 books during the entire month of August. And I've only read 75 147 pages of one book so far this month.

Maybe it's that summer is winding to a close. Or maybe it's been the spate of hurricanes and tropical storms that have plagued the southeastern United States lately. My mother thought she might have to evacuate from Hanna, but fortunately she didn't. Gustav slugged into New Orleans and Ike terrorized Texas. When a storm hits the Gulf, there's always the possibility it will affect us even though we're about 350 miles north of the coast.

The DH was gone for almost a week right after Labor Day and it was nice not to have to worry about meals and such. Then he came home with a nasty cold and don't tell him I said so, but he's a real bear when he's sick and not a very good patient. Thankfully I didn't get it since I'm finally over the cold I brought home from San Francisco. He and our boys are going on a male bonding camping and whitewater rafting trip this weekend. I sure they can manage to have fun without me. I'm not sure yet just how I'll spend the weekend. Of course, the gasoline situation may make the decision for me.

I can see autumn on the horizon. Heck, in some parts of the country they've already had snow. Here, the weather will change gradually and next thing I know I'll be dragging out sweaters and long-sleeved shirts, heavy pajamas and jackets. I'll have to dig out the light-up pumpkin for the front porch and figure out what sort of candy to buy for the trick-or-treaters. But before then I'm going on a retreat in the mountains and have to prepare for that. Then it will be time to start thinking about Thanksgiving, and oh my heavens, there are only 98 days until Christmas!!

Is it summer's end where you live? Or has autumn (or even winter) descended onto your part of the world? What's your favorite season?

P.S. This Sunday, our good friend Barbara Vey from Publisher's Weekly is taking part in a Walk for Polycystic Kidney Disease. Her sixteen-year-old nephew and his father have this disease. There's no cure, but these walks are fundraisers to raise money for research for a cure. If you feel so led, please consider pledging money to Barbara.

P.P.S. I wrote this blog over the weekend and on Monday I finished a New Year's story and submitted it. To celebrate my accomplishment, one lucky commenter will be selected to win a book from my stash.

P.P.P.S. Congratulations to Lois who is Angel's winner from Monday. Please contact Angel to claim your prize.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Hey Sister, Go Sister, Soul Sister, Sister Flow

I’m the only Playfriend without a sister. (Okay so there’s a huge age gap between SP and her
sister, but they’re sisters nonetheless.) I have an older brother, but we’re not what you’d call close. I have female cousins, but I’m not close with the ones who are close in age because I lived away so much when we were young. There’s an age difference with my other cousins that just wasn’t ever bridged. I’m very close to my mom, but she’s my mom, not my sister, and there’s a difference.

We moved around so much when I was a child that I don’t have close friends who have truly known me since childhood. I have a few friends from Junior High that I still see occasionally or that I’ve reunited with via Facebook, and I have Counselor Shelley who’s been around for 20 years now.

But Shelley lives in Louisiana and has since 1991. It’s not like we just decide to have lunch on the spur of the moment. When we get together, it’s planned. I had plenty of friends, but very few were what you'd call really close.

While no man is an island, it is possible to be a peninsula?

Then enter the Playfriends. Nowadays, I have folks stopping by my house with only a moment’s notice, and I only make a perfunctory sweep of the big crap off the couch. I often make them pick up their own food on the way (and bring something for us to eat too). I’ve been known to make my husband baby sit their kids so we can go shopping. I “talk” to all of them constantly, usually all at once due to the wonder that is a yahoo loop. Very little happens in my life—good or bad, boring or not—that they don’t know about.
They know how much I paid for my house and weighed in on the color I’m going to paint. They know which medicines I take, debate with me over the tattoo, and have absolutely no problem telling me that something makes me look fat.

They help plot books and obsess over editorial letters. They advise on my hair and tell me I don’t need to lose weight. On Saturday, we fought over purses until we finally agreed to share.

Danniele makes my crafts, Kira orders my business cards, and Andrea does my makeup. Marilyn straddles that lovely line of mothering us while she eggs us on. (Yes, it’s an interesting trick, not to be tried my amateurs).

In reality, the Playfriends have only been around for a few years, but I really don’t know how I functioned without them. I was never in a sorority, but I’m thinking this is sisterhood.

Now I understand why catalogues have all the “my sister is great” stuff. Sisters are pretty cool.

Poor AC, she doesn’t have a sister either (and she’s not getting one, no matter how much she asks). She’ll just have to make do with Drama Queen, Baby Girl and Sweet Pea. But if they’re anything like their moms, it’s going to work out grand.

Do you have sisters? Is it as great as it sounds, or do you really want to be an only child? What’s the best or worst thing about your sister(s)?

ROBERTSONREADS--you need to contact me ASAP! You were Heidi's winner, and if you don't claim soon, I'll have to give your prize to someone else!
TRAVELER--You're Julie Cohen's winner. Please send me your snail mail addy!

Monday, September 15, 2008

September Is...

Did you know that September is Be Kind to Editors and Writers Month? This is one of those obscure holidays you rarely ever hear about. I find them fascinating. As a writer, and thus having a vested interest, I dug around for more information.

Be Kind to Editors and Writers Month runs from September 1 to September 30th and was established to promote camaraderie and professionalism among people involved in all aspects of the publishing industry. It is also an attempt to enhance the awareness of the general public concerning the importance of writing and editing. Humorist Lauren Barnett is the originator of this nifty event.

I think this is a cool idea because (1) who wouldn’t want a month dedicated to themselves and (2) its an excuse to give and get presents. :)

Some ideas for the harassed writer:
Office supplies, including pens, pens, and more pens; notebooks; journals, ink cartridges, printer paper, etc.
A meal she didn’t have to cook
Two hours at home with NO CHILDREN (without her having to ask! This is important)
A new craft book
Perform a household chore that she normally takes care of
Girly bath stuff and the uninterrupted time to use it
Chocolate (there can never be enough…)

Some ideas for the harassed editor:
(I’m guessing here, since I don’t have one)
New thesaurus or dictionary
Gift certificate for a nice lunch
Submission of a CLEAN manuscript that has been REVISED
A “thank you for all your hard work” card
Meeting your deadline
Flowers (if they aren’t allergic)
Completely planned (hint: no work for her) Date Night

Actually, most of these ideas would work for either/or. So, how can you be kind to your writer? What would you choose for yourself if you could?

Let’s Celebrate! One lucky commenter will win a free book!!!!


Friday, September 12, 2008

Family History

As part of my mother's 50th birthday extravaganza, I've been secretly putting together a scrapbook for her - "The First 50 Years," I call it. (She doesn't read the blog, as far as I know, so we should be okay talking about it.) It starts with her first baby pictures and will go all the way up through her upcoming party. To close it out, guests at the party will write special messages to her on little records that will be included in the book. I know, I’m sick that way. :)

Anyway, for the last two years since I got this wild idea for a party, I have been harassing friends and family for pictures of her. She had virtually none of her own, so I had to gather them from my grandmother, aunts, high school friends, etc. I've been pleased with the results. I got plenty of shots of her as a child. I've been a scanning fool, nearly wearing the machine out getting all those old black and white shots scanned and reprinted. As a perk, I've burned the pictures to CDs and mailed them to the people with their originals. Her teen years are a little sparse, then it drops off to a few pictures a year for a couple decades. After I was born, there's almost no photos of her that don't have me in them. I guess it became the Smarty Pants Show when I got here. Now it's the Little Sister Show.

It made me wonder if it will ever be (or ever was) the Mom show. She wasn't the kind of child that demanded the spotlight, and as the oldest of four, she took care of others to a fault. My grandmother wasn't inclined to make a fuss about anything, so birthdays and holidays were practically a non-event. (Although it seems that overall we make a huge deal of things now that just weren't that important, then.) I asked my mom when she last had a birthday party - an honest to goodness party. She said she hadn't, ever. I almost cried. Made me more determined to make this party the best it could be.

As a part of this massive undertaking, I've also been building our genealogy online so I can include an accurate family tree. Ancestry.com has a free two week trial that I've been wearing out. While interesting, it’s also depressing as hell. Not everyone had great childhoods, much less great lives. My great-great grandmother died from complications just weeks after giving birth to her fourth child. For whatever reason, the children were divided up amongst the family. While people clamored for the babies, no one wanted the headstrong, angry ten year old (my great-grandmother). She got bounced around like a pinball until she was old enough to marry off.

One thing about this project is that it distills life to the basics. You're born, you grow up, get married, have kids, then you die. Generation after generation. Decade after decade. It’s kind of humbling. Makes me realize the day to day crap I deal with is mostly irrelevant. In a hundred years when my great-great granddaughter is researching me, she won't care about the things I'm angsting over. It also makes you realize that as trivial as people make romance out to be, it’s really the core of everything. You're born because two people came together (hopefully) with love. Then you grow up, fall in love and have children of your own. You can only do your best to raise them well so they do the same. The books we write and read and love are a celebration of it.

Ok, so I’m done rambling. My brain is fried after weeks of working on all this. Have you ever done any genealogy or studied the history of your family? Anything interesting or noteworthy in your family tree? My kin were hiding out in the hills of Kentucky and Indiana, so there's no one famous, but DB's family actually settled the Gadsden area and he's related to Emma Sansom, a confererate heroine in those parts. If I'd actually listen to his uncle who will yak your ear off about this stuff, I'd know more. How about you?


PS. As part of the scrapbooking project, I took my mom for a mini-makeover and forced her into having professional pictures taken for the first time since 1997. She doesn't know why, of course, I had come up with some plausible reason, just the same as I had to make an excuse to steal all her family pictures and not give them back. I had a couple shots professionally framed and will post them at the party. I also put some on her birthday website and I'm putting them in the album. Here's her best shot. I think she looks mahh-velous. I teased her that she looks like a senator's wife or something. The free-spirited child of the 70's in her wasn't amused by this observation. :)

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Lack of Words

I thought about letting Zilla blog for me today. After yesterday's song lyrics, I've realized I'm not the only one in the family with a talent for words. Especially when I seem to be all worded out. I honestly sat staring at my blank computer screen for about an hour last night. I have no funny farm stories. Nothing cute the girls have done. My life is fairly boring at the moment...unless you want to hear about my coughing fits (which I seriously doubt you do).

I've been doing a lot of reading lately. After letting my TBR pile get to the towering stage it feels good to finally start putting a dent in it. I've recently found some new authors that I'm really enjoying - Anna Campbell, Adele Ashworth, Anne Mallory, Suzanne Enoch. I just finished Live and Yearn by Kelley St. John, a great friend to the blog and author of a wonderful book! It wrapped up her sexth sense series and if you haven't picked up these books you really should.

I've been on a historical kick lately. I'm not quite sure why but I think maybe it has to do with the fact that up until recently I haven't read one in a while. I used to love the big, meaty historicals and I honestly can't remember why I stopped reading them. Right now, I'm reading A Touch of Minx by Suzanne Enoch. It's one of her contemporary books about Sam Jellicoe a former cat burglar and Rick Addison her billionaire boyfriend. It's really wonderful! I got hooked on Sam and Rick's relationship when I picked up a 2 in 1 of hers that included a historical short story about Rick's ancestors and a contemporary about his relationship with Sam. I can't wait to find out who these two work out their conflicting desires and lives.

So, what have you been reading?


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Guest Blogger Julie Cohen

I feel so popular...we get all the cool kids on our blog. Y'all welcome Julie Cohen and make her feel at home.

Ready to rock?

First, thank you ladies for having me here in the playground, and especially thank you to Problem Child who invited me here to talk about my long-running obsession.

I started my writing career in high school, in chemistry class with my best friend. We wrote a book together about us and the Beatles, circa 1965. She loved George Harrison and I loved Paul McCartney, and I’d write the bits about her and George, and she’d write the bits about Paul and me. We gave Ringo and John to two of our other friends, who weren’t writers but who liked to read. The plot was, I must admit, mostly a vehicle for lots and lots of sex scenes.

The best bit was writing a scene about Kathy and then passing it to her. Second best, but only very narrowly, was reading a scene that Kathy had written about me. The complete joy of giving someone a story from my own head, is still one of the most amazing things about writing for me.

After the Beatles, we wrote a story about us and the Monkees (I had Peter Tork, she had Davy Jones). Then--I’m sorry, but I must admit it, though it betrays our age--us and the New Kids on the Block (I had Joey McIntyre, she had Donnie Wahlberg).

Our writing interests wavered into different channels as we grew up; she wrote about vampires, I wrote about celebrity chefs. The musician-love never died, though: I moved to England and married a guitar-playing Englishman who works for rock stars.

Which made it useful when I had to do research for my latest release, HONEY TRAP.

A couple books before, in SPIRIT WILLING, FLESH WEAK, I’d introduced a character called Max DeMilo. Max was a former rock star, a guy who used to be famous in the 1980s, who was planning a comeback tour. I loved him. He was in his early fifties, he wore lots of silver jewellery and leather, he had long hair and tattoos. Max was so laid-back that he was nearly horizontal. He told long, pointless stories about his crazy life on the road and for the past few years he’d been retired on a farm in Yorkshire, raising llamas. (He always wore his leather trousers and silver jewellery in the fields, whilst mucking out, etc.) I don’t know if it was the llamas or the years on the road, but Max had a sort of skewed wisdom and true kindness that helped heal everyone he was with.

I knew I had to write about him again, and show his comeback tour, which I knew was going to be fraught with peril. For one thing, This Is Spinal Tap is like one of my favourite movies. But the problem was, Max wasn’t hero material: he was too old for my target audience, and I’d also paired him off with someone in the previous book.

So I made up another rock star: Dominick Steele. Max had come out of the other end of fame and fortune with his soul intact; Dominick is his dark shadow. He’s tall, dark, sexy, brooding and immensely talented, the former front man of Dirtysweet, one of the most successful bands in recent years. He’s also an alcoholic who has systematically destroyed everything he’s ever had or cared about.

Oh yeah. This is a hero I can sink my teeth into.

In HONEY TRAP, Max needs a bass player for his tour. He calls Dominick, who has utterly dropped out of the musical world, and pretty much the real world, too, since his wife divorced him and his band broke up. Dom, on the verge of bankruptcy with nothing else to lose, agrees, because this is his last chance. But he instantly regrets his decision when he sees who else is on the tour: Sophie Tennant, the former private detective who broke up his marriage.

I’m not sure why I’m attracted to the darker side of the rock star world: the temptations, the self-abuse, the tortured geniuses. I wouldn’t put up with my husband indulging in any of that crap. But in fantasy, how I love it. It’s Jim Morrison, it’s Stephen Tyler and Joe Perry, it’s Mick Jagger, it’s Jeff Buckley and David Bowie, it’s all those darkly sexy men and their leather trousers.

It is, perhaps, not quite so much Joey McIntyre. But we all grow up, right?

Who’s your favourite bad-boy rock star? And why do you find him so sexy?

Julie's going to give away a copy of HONEY TRAP to one of today's commentors. (Although I think it should be me since I can't believe I just put one of the New Kids on my blog...)
Find Spirit Willing, Flesh Weak here or here and Honey Trap here or here.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Random words

Well, I turned in book #2, which will (hopefully) be a Spring/Summer 09 UK release. Now, I’m waiting to hear back from my lovely editor on whether or not she likes the changes (no, my friends, revisions aren’t just for first books…).
So, I’ve been running around, trying to catch up on the forty thousand things that got left undone while I was in my writing hole. While I was doing all these things, I’d think of something and say “wow, that’ll make a great blog for Tuesday.”

Alas, now that it’s time for me to write that blog, all of those cool ideas have fled for the beach. Yes, more organized people would have written down those great ideas when they arrived (or at the very least, used that digital recorder DG bought for me. Hmm, wonder where it went…). But I didn’t.

So now I’m watching Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares on BBC America (nothing else is on) waiting for inspiration. Or blog fodder, at least.

Nada. Law and Order is on now, and I’m still blog-less. It’s a bit frustrating.

Smarty Pants says that after she’s been around us, she runs out of words and can’t talk to people. I think I run out of words after I finish a book. Hence the blog blank.

Oh, I know. Since I’m out of words, why don’t you give me some? What’s your favorite word? It can be your favorite for any reason—the way it sounds, the way it’s spelled, the memory attached to it. It doesn’t have to be big and fancy… And listing random words are much easier than stringing them together into books or blog posts, right?

A couple of my favorite words — mellifluous (I like the way it sounds), flippant (because I often am), and asinine (because so many things are).

Okay, what are your words?


***robertsonreads---you are Heidi Rice’s winner from last week. Email me with your snail mail addy and I’ll forward it to Heidi.
Juie Cohen guest blogs tomorrow...

Monday, September 08, 2008

Clutter, Clutter, Everywhere!

Lately, I’ve been on a cleaning kick. The past two weekends have had significant parts of them focused on moving out the clutter. I’ve found the floor of my office once again, along with some organizational helpers to make finding things easier. The hubby and I worked on the garage on Saturday (not finished, but we made significant strides). And I’ve dug through the extras in the kids’ rooms to get out the too-small clothes and leftover baby accoutrements. I probably wouldn’t have tackled that job, except the seasonal consignment sale that I participate in is coming soon.

Now, don’t get me wrong, we are not neat freaks around here. As a matter of fact, I’m often bothered by the fact that clutter and piles (of Lord knows what) often find their way into the house, sometimes within an hour of my cleaning it. But as long as the carpet is vacuumed, I can handle quite a bit. I can safely say that our house will never look like those in the magazines with everything PUT AWAY.

But from the time I was a teenager, I’ve had a certain tolerance for clutter. I can handle it for so long, then it’s clean sweep time! Of course, I try to institute areas, containers, and the like to prevent piles from creeping back up, but no one uses them except me. Eventually, I get so overwhelmed picking up everyone else’s crap that I don’t get around to mine and… Deep breath.

But I have to say things are looking quite nice at the moment. Maybe I’m more into fall cleaning than spring, which is busy with lots of school stuff and the HOD luncheon. Seems like I went through a similar spell last September with the still-unopened boxes from our move…

So, what’s your clutter strategy? Do you find it helps you get more writing done if your office is in order?


Coming Soon!
Author Julie Cohen joins us on Wednesday Sept. 10!

PS. I typed The End on my latest manuscript Friday night. Yay!!! Now I've got September to revise 2 books. Boo!!! :)

Friday, September 05, 2008

Held Hostage!

The other day I was messing around on myspace. I do this in the evenings when I'm home alone because the site is blocked at work. I've found it's an interesting way to dig up people you've lost track of. I've managed to find my best friend from high school, two half-siblings from my ever productive father, and tons of writer friends. It also kills a good bit of time if you're avoiding something, as I almost always am.

(As an aside - the Playground, along with several of us listed individually, are on myspace and want to be your friends! I think if you try hard enough, you can also find us on facebook or linkedin. I have profiles everywhere that I can't keep up with...)

Anyway, I was hopping around and popped onto the page for fellow author Nalini Singh. I've known her since back before I even joined RWA and would post on the 20-somethings loop of the eHarlequin boards. As one of the few published authors, she was always very helpful to us struggling newbies. She even mailed me items from Japan to put together a basket for our HOD Readers Luncheon in 2005. She's done great things since then and we had her here back when her book Caressed by Ice came out a year ago.

When I visited her site the other day, she was running a promotional contest for her new release, Hostage to Pleasure, Book 5 in the Psy-Changling Series. It's out now, so pick up a copy. I couldn't pass up the opportunity to enter the contest, so today I'm doing a little plug for her new book. The question posed is:

What fictional hero (from books, tv, movies, etc.) would you most like to hold hostage? And, if not the same answer, who would you like to be held hostage by??

It was an intriguing question, so I thought I'd post it today and see what you all think. I would have to say that if someone had to be chained to the wall and tortured with pleasure, it would most certainly have to involve Johnny Depp. I'm sorry. I am not subject to changing my mind very often. It was JD long before I was on the Playground (think 21 Jump Street when I was 8) and isn't likely to change unless he does something offensive enough to make me dislike him. Although, I have to say I'd also be tempted to kidnap James McAvoy of late. Or Michael Vartan. Maybe I can just keep them all in my basement. :)

What about you? Who do you want to hold hostage?

PS. Don't forget I'm running for Region 3 Director! You have until the end of the month to vote, but don't wait.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

The Dreaded Art Fact Sheet

Well, there's good news - Afterburn, my next book, will be out May 2009. And there's bad news - I need to complete the Art Fact Sheet now. The AFS is the bane of my existence (or it is until I have to write my next synopsis and then it will be).

The thing to remember about the AFS is that I finished writing this book about...three months ago and since then have been working on my next two books. At the moment I can barely remember my own name let alone the eye color for a heroine two books ago. I have to count on my fingers to remember how old I am. It's sad when all I can remember is that my hero is, um, old enough to be a pilot. These things were important when I was writing the book. And when I finished I promptly forgot them.

And then there are the questions about theme, overarching characteristics, etc. I'm so blind when it comes to these things. I'm absolutely certain I have them...I've been told I have them. The problem is I can't see them. Maybe because I'm too close to pick just one. I absolutely agonize over answering these questions. I think it goes back to my years in school. I'm deathly afraid of putting down the wrong answers and flunking the test.

After the last two days I've decided for the next books I'm going to start a cheat sheet file. I wasn't allowed one in school but there's no one to stop me from using one now. Here's hoping I remember to actually open it because it won't do me much good blank.

Anything you've been agonizing over lately?


Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Guest Blogger Heidi Rice

Today y'all get to meet another of my cool new friends in the Modern Heat line...give a big Playground welcome to Heidi Rice!

First off a big thank you to Problem Child for inviting me to blog with you lot, and not minding that I delivered my copy about a nano-second before it had to be up.

Now, what to blog about, especially as my sneaky fellow Mod Hotters have gone and stolen all the best topics such as nicknames and sexy guys. FYI Kate, if you can have the vaguely creepy David Duchovny, I’m definitely having John Hamm, that retro-sexy, chain-smoking misogynist from Mad Men (which also gives me an excuse to stick a photo of some prime tottie into this blog for visual stimulation purposes).

As I’m currently sweating over Book Five which, as per usual, is turning out to be a total nightmare, I’ve decided I’m going to dip my toenails into the whole Pantsers vs Plotters debate (not quite as exciting as Antonio Banderas in a tight T-shirt, I’ll grant you). Or rather pose a question that has been keeping me awake nights recently.

Can you change the way you write?

I’m sure most of you are probably saying at this point, of course you can you ninny, what are you on about, don’t be so self-indulgent? But see, here’s my problem. When I wrote my first two manuscripts I spent years on them, dipping in and out when the mood struck, letting Madame Muse take her own sweet time about supplying me with inspiration and generally living with my characters for months before I ever put anything on paper. Then I got the Call from Bryony Green at Modern Heat, all fabulous and thrilling and the rest of it, but then the WOW factor wore off and I thought, oh crap, I’ve got to do it again. And my lovely editor said, very casually, ‘Oh, we’d like two or three books a year, but if you think you can manage more that’s great!’ Eh, more? What?

So here’s the deal. I have managed to write a few more, and I’m really pleased with how they’ve all turned out so far. The Mile High Club (aka The Millionaire’s Blackmail Bargain in the US) got a RITA nom this year (cue Heidi in her posh frock in Frisco looking very chuffed indeed), The Tycoon’s Very Personal Assistant is out now in the US and Pleasure, Pregnancy and a Proposition will be out in November in the UK. But crikey, I’ve found my process means writing every book is like getting blood from a stone, a lot of blood from a very unforgiving stone. And it gets harder every time (or seems to). And I know I need to change my process, find a more efficient, professional way to get those books out, but so far, try as I might I can’t seem to do it. I thought I’d cracked it with Book Five, even got all cocky on my blog after I’d written a workable outline, but then a week from deadline I was writing my Black Moment and realised I didn’t have one, cos my heroine had whimped out in Chapter Five and I hadn’t even noticed.

What’s my process? As you’ve probably guessed I’m a total pantser. I kick off with an opening hook — maybe it’s a girl stranded in her underwear in a deluxe Vegas hotel being interrogated by the super-sexy tycoon that owns said hotel, or a London magazine journalist who’s hard at work one Friday when the one-night stand from three-months ago she never wants to see again comes striding into her office and demands she has a pregnancy test — but usually that’s all there is. Then I have to find out who the hell these people are. What drives them, what scares them, what they want or think they want, what they don’t want and to do that I have to write their story, see what works, see where they lead me. And quite a lot of the time they lead me up a blind alley, or paddle me up a creek, or just drop me off a cliff and wait for me to go splat (and I’m not even going to mention the Elvis Impersonator who popped up in the first draft of Tycoon and had to be kicked right back out again).

So I’d like to ask you all — and this includes unpubbed writers, because I’m thinking if you can get the process thing sussed and working for you before you get published that’s a huge step forward right there — What’s your process? How does it work for you and how has it evolved? Have you ever tried to change it, or modify it and has it been successful? And then I’m going to be totally self-serving and pinch some ideas that might help me get my own process a bit more sorted.

And to encourage you to divulge all your secrets and help make me much more successful (and get me breaking that three-book-a-year barrier at last), I’d like to offer one commentator a copy of The Tycoon’s Very Personal Assistant (completely devoid of any pushy Elvis impersonators or visible blood stains, I promise).

Visit Heidi on the web at http://www.heidi-rice.com/

Oh, Heidi's put a challenge out there today...and can I just say I can't wait to hear what everyone else has to say!

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Things I’ve learned about writing from my Mood Hair.

Mood Hair: \müd her\ n: The unexpected and unpredictable hairstyles of the Problem Child. No one—not even PC herself—knows what her hair will look like after her next trip to the salon. It’s never described as “natural-looking.”

Laugh all you like about my Mood Hair. But in addition to making me happy, my Mood Hair has taught me a lot in the last few years, and some of it even applies to writing.

Change is good. Have you been wearing the same style since high school? Chances are, it’s dating you, making you seem out of touch and behind the times. And it probably doesn’t flatter you as much as it used to, either. Goodness knows, I could do Mall Bangs with the best of them and Aqua-Net was my savior, but it’s just not what’s right now. The same thing applies to books. Compare the Flame and the Flower to a new release—the style is different, the language is different, the h/h are different. You’d be hard pressed to find an editor who’d take on a book that sounded like it was written thirty years ago. Be true to yourself, but stay with the times. (And understand there’s a difference between “retro” and “hopelessly out of style.”) But remember trends can be cyclical—after all, who would have believed neon nail polish and leg warmers would be retro cool now… sigh.

Nothing is permanent. Hair grows. Dye jobs can be corrected. No matter what I do to my hair, I can always change it later. That knowledge gives me courage to try new things. If I can do that with my hair, surely I can give my self the same freedom with my WIP. Words in a file are the most ephemeral—and very easy to change. There’s very little to lose by trying something new. And, in the same way I sometimes decide a few days later that my hair is a bit bright, if my editor or I don’t like it, I can always change it.

Listen to those who know. I’ve been asking for a perm for two years now. My hairdresser won’t give me one. Partly because my hair is so over processed, a perm would destroy it (or I could give up either my color or my highlights—but I can’t have all three.) Also, I’ve been with this stylist long enough that she knows I’ll regret the perm later. I listen to her when she tells me that a color won’t look right or that a cut isn’t going to flatter my face. More importantly, I listen to her when she suggests I try something new—like a new way to do highlights or a different color. I may not always take her suggestions, but it usually leads me in a new and better direction. I try to take that same approach to revision—my editor knows what absolutely won’t work (like a perm), and she’s also the one full of great ideas about the possibilities. If you have an editor or trusted critique partner, listen to their ideas. (At the same time, don’t put too much stock in the random suggestions of anonymous contest judges—unless you’re the type, of course, who lets people on the street decide your hairstyle too.)

Be willing to accept the stares and disapproval of others. I had a soccer mom at AC’s school describe my hair as “just so bright and, well, interesting.” I could tell by the tone, she didn’t intend either of those to be compliments. Did I go change my hair? Nope. I’m just the mom all the kids know because my hair is different colors. I’ve had contest judges who hated my voice. I was given lots of “helpful” advice about how to make my voice more appealing (read: bland). So I stick out. Big deal. The ones whose approval I seek and care about think my hair is great. My editor likes my voice (and thinks readers will too). Everyone else can, well, shove it.

There are unbreakable rules. In the same sense that I can’t have color and highlights and a perm (and still have hair, at least), there are some rules that you’re just not going to be able to break, no matter how much you stomp your feet and pout. Sure, I could find another stylist who will do three processes to my hair, but do I want to? Do you want to turn your book into something else or hang on to an element to the extent that you’re willing to get rejected for it? There are some rules—listen to those who know (see above).

So, my Mood Hair has uses beyond entertaining the Playfriends and letting DG feel like he’s sleeping with a different woman every couple of months. It’s taught me to take chances and be comfortable sticking out of the pack. I’ve learned how to exert my individuality and stand out from the crowd without resorting to Goth black or pink spikes. I can be unique, yet socially acceptable at the same time. :-) Has it made me a stronger writer? Well, that’s up for debate. Has it made me a more confident writer—you bet.

What makes you feel confident? Have you ever done something really bold to yourself and LOVED it afterwards?


(For those new to the blog, you can see many variations of my Mood Hair in the Playground Yearbook.)

Monday, September 01, 2008

MOANday-Karl Urban

Some hero inspiration to kick off your month right.

This guy has scruff and long hair down to an art:

Tall, dark, and yum:

Bad Ass, anyone?


How about we make that a Bad Ass Cowboy?



Coming Soon!Author Heidi Rice joins us on Wednesday Sept. 3!